The dog days of Summer are finally here, quite literally! This is a great time to spend some quality time outdoors with your furry friends. However, it is so important that we are aware what the heat can do to our precious pets. They give us plenty of clues and signs, but they can’t tell us directly if anything is wrong.
Dogs don’t handle heat like we do. Unlike us, dogs release heat by panting instead of sweating, but this may not always be enough to cool down. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to identify signs that your pet may be suffering from a heatstroke, heat stress, dehydration, or exhaustion. You may notice symptoms of:
- Excessive panting and short of breath
- Excessive drooling
- Changes in gum color or tongue (bright or dark red)
- Elevated body temperature
- Increased pulse and heartbeat
- Excessive thirst
- Disorientation, stumbling or weakness
If you think your pet may be suffering from a heatstroke, bring them into air-conditioning and wrap them in cool, wet towels. If you suspect your pet is having a heatstroke, contact your veterinarian immediately. This can be scary stuff, but there are ways to prevent your pet from getting to the point of overheating. Here are some tips:
Walk Dogs in Cooler Times of the Day
Limit activity on extremely hot and humid days. Here in Texas, it gets hot early and stays hot late. There is really not a “great” time from a heat perspective. The best time for a lengthy walk is going to be between 6:30am and 7:30am. If your dog or cat is out during the day, remember that asphalt and concrete can get very hot and burn the pads of their feet. Try this quick tip: Place the back of your hand on the pavement; if you can’t hold it for five seconds, it’s too hot to walk your dog. Your pet must always have shelter available to protect it from extreme temperatures and inclement weather. Be aware that older and overweight pets, as well as flat-faced breeds such as Persian cats, pugs and bulldogs, are more likely to overheat in hot weather.
Provide your Dog with Ways to Cool Down When they are Playing Outside
Summer activities such as swimming or letting your dog run through the sprinkler can be refreshing activities for highly active dogs that need to release more energy, even on a sweltering day. You can purchase a wading pool for your dog to cool off. On walks, bring water and a portable water bowl (we have some you can purchase!). Allow water hoses to run until water cools before spraying your dog or filling his water. You can also drop an ice cube in the dish to keep the water cool, especially if you keep one outdoors.
Never Leave your Dog Alone in the Car– EVER
It takes only minutes for a dog or cat to suffer a heat stroke. Even with the windows down, the temperature of a car may reach 120 degrees in 10 minutes on an 85-degree day. Even if you are parked in a shaded area, temperatures in your car can quickly rise much higher than you think. If you see a dog locked in a car on a hot day, call animal control. They have legal authority to break into the vehicle.
Other Summer Safety Tips
- Remember that some pets are more likely to overheat than others. This includes short nosed dogs, senior and geriatric pets, as well as pets on medication or those with specific medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease.
- Don’t forget, your pets have delicate skin. Did you know skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in dogs and the second-most common form in cats? Even though fur provides some protection, you should apply sunscreen to your pet’s least hair-covered spots—dogs’ bellies and around cats’ ears and eyes. There are sunscreens made specifically for pets, as zinc oxide can be toxic for pets. If your pet does get a sunburn, applying pure aloe can help soothe irritation, but be sure to check with your veterinarian first to ensure the brand you have is safe for pets.
- Keep your yard pet friendly. Azaleas, lilies and some plant foods can be fatal to pets. Also, keep away any engine coolant drippings or bottles that your pet could potentially lick up, this can be fatal as well.
Enjoy summertime with your furry friends and stay cool!