Summer is almost here, and you’re likely ready to head outdoors for some fun in the sun with your four-legged friend. But the approach of summer brings a spike in temperatures and humidity, which can cause health issues like dehydration, sunburn, and heatstroke. In order to help your pet stay healthy in warmer weather, it’s important to take extra precautions and know the steps to take if your pet shows signs of heat distress. Here’s how to keep your pet healthy in the summer heat.
LIMIT EXERCISE ON HOT DAYS
If you and your pet enjoy long walks or runs, adjust the duration and intensity of your activity as the temperature rises. When the temperature is very high, limit your activities to early morning or evening hours. Your pet’s body can heat up quickly and the hot asphalt can burn their sensitive paw pads.
PROVIDE ACCESS TO WATER AND SHADE
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so make sure they have a constant source of fresh, clean water when it’s hot or humid outdoors. During heat waves, add ice to your pet’s drinking water when possible. If you go for a walk, bring a collapsible dish and make frequent water stops. Also, make sure your pet has a shady place to get out of the sun. Tarps and tree shades are ideal because they allow air to flow freely, while a doghouse doesn’t provide relief from the heat.
NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET IN A PARKED VEHICLE
On a hot day, temperatures inside a closed car with slightly opened windows can reach 102 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit within 10 to 30 minutes. Extreme heat may cause irreversible organ damage or death. Do not leave your pet in a parked car even for a minute. Parking in the shade, opening a window, or leaving the air conditioner on does not eliminate the risk of heatstroke.
WATCH THE HUMIDITY
A humid day can be as dangerous as a hotter, dry day. Animals pant to evaporate moisture from internal body structures and cool their bodies. High humidity levels tend to slow down the evaporation process, making your pet’s cooling strategy a lot less efficient. As a result, their body temperature can skyrocket to dangerous levels very quickly. Watching the humidity and taking your pet’s temperature will help keep them healthy in the summer heat.
TAKE EXTRA CARE WITH OLDER OR SHORT-NOSED PETS
Animals with flat faces, like Persian cats, bulldogs, and pugs, are at a greater risk of heatstroke because their panting is not as effective. Pets with short noses, along with overweight pets, elderly pets, and those with lung or heart diseases, should be kept in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
KEEP UP WITH GROOMING
Brush your pet more than usual to help shed their winter undercoat and prevent problems caused by excessive heat. It’s ok to give your long-haired cat or dog a “summer cut.” However, leave that task to a professional groomer and never have your pet’s fur shaved down to the skin.
To avoid sunburn, use pet-safe sunscreen on exposed parts of your pet’s skin. This is especially important if your furry companion has white or light-colored fur.
DON’T DELAY HESITATE IN AN EMERGENCY
Extreme summer heat can cause heatstroke, which can be fatal if not treated quickly. Some signs of heatstroke include:
- Glazed eyes
- Heavy panting
- Excessive drooling
- Excessive thirst
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Warm and dry skin
- Purple or deep red tongue
- Dizziness or lack of coordination
- Seizure or unconsciousness
If your pet exhibits these signs, move them into an air-conditioned or shaded area. Apply a towel soaked in cool water to the hairless parts of their body. Using ice or completely immersing your pet in water is not recommended because it causes blood vessels in the skin to contract and prevents heat from leaving the body. Let your pet drink small amounts of cool water and contact a vet immediately.
With thoughtful play, preventive care, and access to emergency services, summer can still be a fun time for you and your furry friends.