As summer beckons and the promise of bright sunshine and warmer climes draw ever closer, we look forward to hot weather.
However, we must remember that the summer months can be uncomfortable and even dangerous for our animals. In today’s blog we share our tips on how to keep your animals safe and cool this summer.
Whilst it is tempting whilst popping to the shops or visiting friends to leave your pet in the car, this can be very dangerous – even with the air conditioner running! Temperatures in cars can reach scorching temperatures in a matter of minutes and, even with the windows open, can be extremely dangerous.
‘It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature, but also the humidity that can affect your pet’ says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. ‘Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly.’ Taking a pet’s temperature will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem. Dogs’ temperatures should not reach over 104 degrees.
Take care when exercising your pet. Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-coloured ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing.
Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.
Pets respond differently to heat than humans do (dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet), and fans don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people. Cool mats that can be put into freezers or putting water on your pet (carefully as not to shock them) can help to keep them cool.
Keep your pet from overheating indoors or out with a cooling body wrap, vest or mat. Soak these products in cool water, and they’ll stay cool (but usually dry) for up to three days. If your dog doesn’t find baths stressful, see if they enjoy a cooling soak.
Any time your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and parasols are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow.
Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.
Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs – like boxers, pugs, shih tzus and other dogs and cats with short muzzles – will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take them directly to a veterinarian.
We hope that our tips can help keep your pets cool and safe this summer. On behalf of all at the VCMS we wish all an enjoyable, and hopefully warm and sunny, summer.