Summer is a time for warm weather, lots of flowers, sun tans, and being outside. People take may precautions to protect themselves in the summer: wearing sunblock, staying hydrated, and trying to stay cool. Many people, however, forget that household pets also need to be protected from the summer heat. Here’s a short guide to help you keep your pet healthy and comfortable this summer.
- Never leave your pet in the car. Even if you roll the window down, the inside of your care can easily reach temperatures in excess of 120 degrees. If you need to run errands that would involve leaving your dog in the car, leave your dog at home instead.
- Keep your pet on a leash. Dogs and cats like being outside and, with all of the distractions (people, insects, flowers, the dog down the street, etc), the leash will prevent your pet from wandering off. It will also help keep you aware of your pet’s surroundings, which will prevent accidental ingestion of harmful items that your pet may try to eat or drink.
- Fresh water should always be available. Just as humans need to stay hydrated, pets do as well. If you leave you pet outside with a bowl of water, remember that the bowl and water will increase in temperature as it sets outside. Do you want to drink a glass of water that has been sitting outside in the sun for hours? Your pet doesn’t either.
- Sunscreen. Pets have skin underneath the fur. While the fur does provide some protection from the sun’s rays, it is not complete. Dogs and cats can experience sunburns and can develop skin cancer, just like people. If you have a pet with a bare stomach or other bare patches, you should consider applying a pet-friendly sunscreen.
- Insect Repellent. Many people apply flea/tick repellent. Those aren’t the only insects you should worry about. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitoes and biting flies like to snack on the ears and noses of your pets. Many people have their dogs on medication to prevent heartworms, but some of the over-the-counter topical treatments repel mosquitoes and biting flies as well. Insect repellent for humans can be applied to your pet, but only if the label says that it is pet friendly.
- Keep your pet groomed. Dogs and cats shed their winter coats in the summer. By keeping your pet brushed, you help remove this warm winter coat and keep them cooler.
- Be wary of humid days. Dogs and cats don’t perspire the way people do. While we can sweat over our entire body, they can only sweat around their paws. When this isn’t enough to cool your pet off, they start to pant. If the air outside the body is humid, the ability for the animal to dissipate excess heat through panting is limited. Dogs with the flat noses, like pugs, should be monitored as they cannot pant as efficiently as other dogs. You should also limit your pets exercise to avoid over exertion. Swimming can be a fun, cool activity for dogs, but remember that swimming takes a lot of energy and your dog can still become over heated while swimming.
- Bring your pet inside. Elderly, very young, and ill pets do not regulate body temperature as efficiently as healthy adult pets. They should be brought into the air conditioning to ensure they do not over heat. Pets experience heat exhaustion and heat stroke just like people. If you can’t keep an eye on your pet outside, you should bring your pet inside. If you pet is strictly an outdoors pet, you should provide your pet with a shelter that provides shade all day and water.
If you are worried that your pet is over heated, set up a fan and place it in front of your pet, place cool, wet towels on their stomachs and other areas that are relatively free of fur. If you suspect your pet is experiencing heat stroke, you must get your pet to the vet as soon as possible. A responsible pet owner should know where the nearest animal hospital is located and have the phone number near by.
For more information, talk to your vet and you can look at the The Weather Channel Pet Safety, Pet Finder, ASPCA and the American Kennel Club.