Cool Summers for Pets
Protect Dogs, Cats, Birds and Exotics from the Heat
After a long winter and a spring thaw, we’re eager to get back out into the sunshine and enjoy the long days and warm nights with neighbors, friends and family. And for many of us, “family” includes our pets.
In fact, including your pets in your summer activities is healthy fun for everyone. But when the summer heat and humidity start to rise, it’s important to understand how pets are affected by the spike in temperature and take the necessary precautions to keep them cool and comfortable.
H2O is a Pet’s Best Friend
Unlike humans, dogs and cats have few sweat glands, which hinder them from cooling off by sweating. Instead, they lose heat and moisture from their tongues by panting. This water loss needs to be replaced, so it’s important to keep some fresh drinking water available at all times. This is especially important when you take them out for long summer walks or car rides.
Don’t Park Your Pet
Never leave your pet alone in a parked car, not even for a few minutes. The air in a parked car doesn’t circulate and, even in the shade, the temperature in a vehicle will start to rise and become life threatening in just a few minutes.
Rules for Pools
Getting together at your backyard pool to swim, have fun and cool off is a great summertime tradition. But the pool can be dangerous for adults, children and pets unless safety is observed at all times.
You should always be cautious when your pets are in or around the pool, especially if they’re older and can’t get in and out of the pool as easily as they used to. Some manufacturers produce ramps to allow pets an easy escape from an accidental fall into the water.
Block That Sun
It may be surprising to learn that pets with light-colored skin and hair can get sunburned. In fact, extensive time in the sun can even result in skin cancer. If you are going to be in a situation where your pet will be spending a long time outside on a hot, sunny day, talk to your veterinarian about using specially developed sun block for pets on unprotected areas like the nose and ears.
Make Some Shade
If you keep your pet outside, be mindful of the fact that a cool spot in the morning can turn scorching hot by mid-afternoon. Be sure to always have a comfortable, sheltered area available that they can retreat to for their rest. A kiddie pool in the shade can provide relief on those scorching summer days.
Grooming is Cool
Common sense would lead you to believe that animals with longer hair would be cooler in the summer if you gave them a “haircut”. However, just as a pet’s coat insulates against cold, it also insulates against heat. Be sure to brush your pet’s hair regularly to get rid of mats and tangles and remove loose undercoat. The more you brush, the more the hair “breathes”.
It’s a Breed Thing
Yes, it’s true. All breeds are not alike and some, because of their nature, can have a more difficult time in the summer than others. Flat-nosed breeds such as Pekingese, Pugs and Bulldogs, for example, have a harder time staying cool than long-nosed dogs because their shortened nose and oral cavities don’t allow them to breathe as efficiently. Learn more about your pet’s particular needs by talking to your veterinarian.
A Weighty Problem
Studies show that between 25 and 40 percent of all household pets in the U.S. are overweight or obese. In fact, according to Nationwide pet insurance’s claims data, this trend is leading to a steady rise in obesity-related pet illnesses such as diabetes mellitus. Obesity is also known to be associated with, or can exacerbate, a variety of medical conditions such as high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.
Now, what does this mean with regard to the summer season? Well, summer can be a particularly difficult time of year because, as with humans, overweight dogs and cats can overheat faster because the extra layers of fat act as insulation, trapping heat and restricting breathing. If your pet is overweight, it’s important that you talk to your veterinarian before taking your pet on any outdoor activities you may be planning.
High Noon is No Time for Exercising
If you’re used to taking your dog for a walk during mid-day, it would be wise to change your schedule during summer to early morning or late afternoon walks with fresh water always at hand. Hot pavement can burn a dog’s pads, and walking outdoors during the hottest time of the day can lead to heat stress. After the summer is over, feel free to return to your usual schedule.
Keep the Bugs Off
The warm weather, longer days and summer fun keep us and our pets outdoors more often, increasing our chances of running into those pesky fleas and mosquitoes. Fleas and mosquitoes can transmit a number of diseases including tapeworm, heartworm and even West Nile Virus. During the summer months, be sure your dog or cat is tested for heartworm and that you’re using veterinarian-recommended flea and heartworm preventive products.
Birds handle heat better than dogs and cats because their normal body temperature ranges from 104 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. However, lacking sweat glands, any increase in body temperature can cause heat exhaustion. Make sure cages are kept away from direct sunlight and that there’s a fresh supply of drinking water available.
As a special treat for your feathered friend, get out your spray bottle, fill it with water and give him a spritz.
Rabbits and Ferrets
If you can’t cool your home during the hottest part of the day, wrap a 2-liter plastic bottle in a towel and place it in the cage in the morning. This way, your rabbit or ferret can lie next to the chilled bottle to cool off.
Guinea Pig Habitat
If you’re going to move your guinea pig’s hutch outdoors for the summer (as some folks do), be sure the hutch is made of small wire mesh to keep out unwanted visitors like mice, foxes, coyotes and the neighbor’s dog or cat.
So sit back, sip some lemonade and read over these safety tips so you can give your pets the coolest summer ever!