Everyone looks forward to summer, with its long sunny days, bathing suits, barbecues, and other fun activities. However, while fun in the sun may be the name of the game for people, the summer sun can be hazardous for pets. Because they can’t deal with heat as well as people, pets are at risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which can be life-threatening. Watch for the following six hazards and keep your pet safe and healthy this summer:
1. Too much sun
Even the most careful owners may unintentionally expose their pet to too much sun. Dogs cannot express when they’re uncomfortably hot, and knowing the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke so you can act immediately to help your pet is important. Your pet is most at risk when she is exercising in the heat, or is outside in the sun for extended periods, even if she spends time in the water. Early signs of heat exhaustion, the precursor to heatstroke, are excessive panting and lethargy, which can be easily missed. When heat exhaustion progresses, heatstroke, a more serious condition where the pet’s core body temperature becomes so high that normal body processes are disrupted, occurs. Heatstroke signs include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea.
If you notice any of these signs, immediately move your dog inside, or at least into shade, and offer her water. Next, put her near a fan and dampen her fur with room-temperature water—never use cold or icy water, which can cause other life-threatening complications. Also, call our office as soon as possible, because treatment is usually necessary for a pet with heat illness, and she may need monitoring for dehydration or shock, intravenous fluids and medication, and hospitalization. The earlier you catch signs of distress, the faster and more completely she will recover.
2. Not enough water
Even if they have shade, dogs need access to clean, fresh water when outdoors, and especially when they are around salt water. Salt water toxicity can result from drinking too much sea water, and can be deadly. If your dog is your favorite hiking companion, always pack her a water bottle and collapsible bowl. Set a timer on your phone to remind you to stop and take water breaks.
3. Your car
The temperature in a car can climb 40 degrees in 30 minutes and turn your vehicle into a literal oven. Your pet is never safe alone in a car for any length of time, even if the air-conditioning is on. If you must travel with your pet in the summer, always take her with you when you leave the vehicle.
4. Not enough time inside
Keep your pet from overheating by limiting her exposure to the sun and reflected heat from any paving or rocks. Walk with her early in the morning or late at night. Although outdoor get-togethers and barbecues are fun for people, they can be dangerous for our canine companions. If it’s too hot for you to sit comfortably outside, it’s too hot for your pet.
A dog’s skin can be as sensitive as human skin to sunburn. If your dog has white body areas or a thin hair coat, she is at a higher risk of sunburn. Sunscreen products specifically for pets are available, and your veterinarian can help you choose the best product for your furry friend and her lifestyle.
6. Tootsie trouble
Owners often think about noses and ears, but your pet’s most sensitive and least-protected skin is her feet. The surfaces where your pet walks can be twice as hot as the air temperature, so avoid concrete or any dark-covered surface that could cause burning and blistering. If the surface can’t be avoided, consider purchasing your pet a pair of booties, which are available in a variety of styles and sizes suitable for any activity from walking to mountain hiking.
Summer is a fun season that we want our pets to enjoy. However, the summer poses hazards to our pets, but some prevention, a little vigilance, and plenty of fresh water can keep your four-legged friend safe. Don’t hesitate to contact our office if you have any concerns about your pet and the heat this summer.