June brings the official start of summer, offering plenty of outdoor activities for the entire family, including beloved family pets. Hiking, biking, swimming and backpacking with the family does not apply to just dogs anymore. With the new trend of “Adventure Cats” sweeping social media, pet owners of cats and dogs are now bringing them along for off leash adventures.
Summer outdoor excursions also mean exposure to summer heat, and high temperatures can mean high risk for our four legged friends, causing injury, heat stroke and skin infections. Before you and your pet explore the outdoors this summer, there are safety measures you should take to protect your pets’ health.
Many of us love to bask in the sunshine while at pool, lake or ocean side. Many dogs and cats also enjoy sunbathing, but too much direct sunlight can overheat your pet (especially dogs) and lead to heatstroke.
A dog’s normal temperature is between 100 and 103 degrees, and a cat’s normal temperature is 100.4 to 102.5 degrees. When a pet’s body temperature goes higher than normal, they could be in danger of heat stroke.
Signs of heat stroke in your pet could include heavy panting, dry or bright red gums, thick drool, vomiting, diarrhea, and wobbly legs. If your pet exhibits one or more of these symptoms while in the hot sun, move them to a cool, shady spot, give them plenty of water, and place a wet towel on them until you can contact your veterinarian.
Placing a wet towel on your pet's stomach and paws will cool your pet faster than placing a wet towel on their top coat. Never place a pet you suspect has heat stroke in a tub or pool of cold water, as this may cause them to go into shock.
Some pet owners consider shaving their pet for the summer to avoid overheating, but this could cause more harm than good.
Animals do not sweat like humans to naturally cool down. Dogs and cats pant to bring down their body temperature and their fur is naturally designed to keep them cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, almost like insulation. Your pet’s fur also protects their skin from getting sunburned.
Certain breeds that have short, light hair coats, or are “furless,” may be susceptible to sunburn. If your pet’s breed has this type of coat, check with your vet before you plan a full day's activities in the sun with your pet. Your vet may want to recommend a sunscreen made specificlly for pets with this type of coat.
Despite warm temperatures, Fido will still need to take daily walks and have regular exercise. During extreme heat days, try to keep walking or exercise time to early morning or late evening when the temperature is at its lowest for the day. Avoid mid-day exercise and always have plenty of water available.
There are many types of collapsible travel bowls, or water bottles with built in dispenser cups made specifically for pets on the go. These items are readily available at pet stores or online, making it easy to always have water available for your pet when you are out and about.
Keep in mind while you are walking your pet that most pets heat and cool from the bottom up. This means that walking on hot cement or asphalt for long periods of time can also increase body temperature and lead to overheating.
Many dogs (cats, not so much) enjoy cooling off in a pool, lake or ocean. Even though our four legged friends get the credit for “the doggy paddle,” not all dogs are strong swimmers, and struggle in deep water. Even dogs that are good swimmers can get caught in strong currents, riptides, and underwater plant life, so you may want to consider a life vest for your pet.
Dog life vest sizes are based on your dog's weight and can provide a bright color for easy viewing while your pet is in the water and can keep him afloat if there is ever an accident.
It should go without saying, but because it continues to happen, I must say it… NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET UNATTENDED IN THE CAR!
It can take less than 10 minutes for the inside car temperature to exceed 100 degrees and cause heat stroke, and even death, to your pet. If you are going somewhere that you can not bring your pet inside with you when you get there, then leave them at home!
Another danger to your pets can be warm weather pests like fleas, ticks, mosquitos, and other parasites like tapeworm and heartworm. Many of these carry diseases like Lyme and Bartonella, which can be harmful, even lethal, to your pet. Consult with your vet to find the appropriate preventative treatment for your pet to keep them pest-free during the summer months.
This summer, meteorologists are predicting a warmer than normal summer season. With a mixture of precaution, common sense, and medical advice from your veterinarian, you and your pet can still enjoy chilling out in the summer heat.