Summer brings all types of activities. From lounging in the pool to tending your ever-growing garden, summer can be a time of great fun. However, with the summer fun comes the summer heat. As the temperatures rise, so do the health risks for pets. That's why House Beautiful chatted with Jennifer Freeman, DVM, PetSmart resident veterinarian and pet-care expert about exactly how to keep pets safe this summer. Check out her advice for keeping your four-legged pals safe this season.
What’s the one thing pet owners need to be aware of during the summer months?
It’s important to know that pets don’t sweat the same way humans do, which makes them more susceptible to overheating and heatstroke. Pet parents need to remain vigilant, especially during the summer months, to make sure pets are healthy and safe when a heat wave strikes.
How often should pets be hydrating when it’s hot outside?
It’s always important to have a bowl of fresh, clean water readily available for your cat or dog, especially during those hot summer months. Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so having easily accessible water, especially when they’re outdoors, is very important.
What are some of the warning signs that a dog/cat is overheated?
Call your vet immediately if you notice that your pet is panting excessively, is sluggish or unresponsive, or has a red, enlarged tongue—these are all signs of overheating or heatstroke.
What are some ways pets can cool off outside?
It’s always recommended that you keep your pets inside as much as possible when it’s hot outside. If your pet must be outdoors, make sure to find a shaded area for them to hang out in and have fresh, clean water readily available. Pro tip: You can add ice to water to keep it nice and cold. Also consider filling a kiddie pool for doggie cooldowns or try a cooling mat.
Is there a recommended time frame for dogs being outside in the heat?
There are no hard-and-fast rules as to how long a dog can be in a certain temperature. It would depend on whether there is shade, the age of the dog, conformation of the dog (e.g., if it's brachycephalic), whether the dog is overweight or obese, and medical conditions that decrease its ability to dissipate heat by panting.
Are there long-term effects of pets being in the heat?
The worst long-term effect of excessive heat exposure would be death by heatstroke (especially from late-onset multi-organ failure and skin necrosis/slough that are secondary to heatstroke)! Other than that, there are no long-term issues with minor exposures to heat, only short-term if the dog develops heat stress.
Can dogs get skin cancer?
Like humans, pets can get sunburned during the hot summer months, especially if they have short or light-colored fur. It can be painful and possibly lead to skin cancer. If you’re planning to have some fun in the sun with your pet, it’s important to apply sunscreen every three to four hours to the areas that have the least amount of hair, such as their stomachs, ears, and nose. Sunscreen is highly encouraged, but make sure whatever sunscreen you use is specially formulated for pets.
How can my pet get exercise when it’s so hot out?
It’s important to limit outdoor exercising on hot days. Try to schedule walks during cooler times of the day (early morning or late evening). In some places, this may mean it is a little dark, so be sure to bring a flashlight and have both yourself and your dog wear reflective materials. Remember that asphalt gets very hot and can cause painful burns on your pet’s paws. Walk on the grass whenever possible, or invest in a pair of heat-protective booties to keep their paws safe.
What advice do you have for pet parents in the summer months?
Remember that extreme heat can have dangerous, sometimes fatal, effects on pets. If you can avoid taking your pet out during the hottest part of the day, it’s highly recommended they stay indoors. A dog's temperatures should not reach above 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything more than that can signal heatstroke. And never leave a dog in a parked car in hot—or even warm—weather.
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