The sun is out, which means it’s time to get your sunscreen on, grab your pets and head outside! But while you might be looking forward to spending some well-deserved time with your furry little friends, it’s important to make sure they’re staying safe as well.
Overheating can be a serious issue, and this summer is promising to be one of the hottest on record. Heat stroke, one of the most common causes of veterinary visits in the summertime, is one condition to look out for.
“When you see one [case of heat stroke], you’re gonna see two or three,” warns Dr. Jay Empel, veterinarian at Vernon Woods Animal Hospital in Atlanta. “It’s the time of year for it, and it’s terrible, but you’re going to see it.”
He cautions pet owners to look out for the warning signs. Dogs and cats typically expel heat through panting and drooling, and a little through the pads in their feet. If you see your pet excessively panting or salivating, finding it difficult to breathe or having tremors, a rapid heart rate or diarrhea, they may be experiencing heat stroke.
“Those are the things that if you’re out in the sun and you see happening, you need to get into shade, you need to spray them off with cold water or wrap them in a cold compress,” said Empel.
While many pet owners will shave their dogs during the summer, Empel cautions heavily against this.
“If you clip them a little shorter, that’s fine, but the hair coat acts as insulation, so it actually protects them to some degree,” he says. Shaving longer-haired breeds can actually put them at increased risk for this reason.
Other breeds are also at risk during the summer. “The brachycephalic breeds,” notes Empel, “like bulldogs and pugs and certain cats. Their face is smushed in, so their nasal area doesn’t breathe as well. They have more problems, so I say anything over 85 degrees you gotta be careful if you’re not in shade.”
Keeping your dogs in a car, even with the windows rolled down, can also be extremely dangerous. According to Empel, “The temperature of the car can jump 25 degrees in ten minutes, so it’s already 110 degrees if it’s 85 degrees outside, and your dog will have a heat stroke if that happens.”
Lastly, he notes that, even if you walk your pets at night, you should walk them on the sidewalk, not the pavement. “If you’re walking on the pavement, you need to put your bare hand or your bare foot on the hot asphalt before you walk your dog because it can blister their feet.”
Plenty of stores are selling products to help beat the heat. The Clean Dog pet store and spa in Inman Park had a wide selection of products on sale this weekend, including cooling vests and bandanas. There was also a wide variety of lactose-free ice cream (just add water) from Hoggin’ Dogs, featuring flavors like peanut, bacon and cheese, as well as “pupsiclez” from Pooch Ice Pops.
The team at Hollywood Feed also recommends cooling contraptions, such as mats and special beds, as well as trying to incorporate a more water-based diet to encourage your pet to drink more water than they would otherwise consume.
Still, Empel notes, “The most important things are to have fresh water, shade outside and if it’s humid conditions try not to walk during the heat of the day.”
Tips to Keep Pets Cool
During the Summer:
1. Take Water with You
Physical activity is important, but so is keeping them hydrated. Whenever you take your pup outside to play, whether it is the park or the backyard, keeping a bowl of water out is essential so that they can replenish fluids when necessary.
2. Incorporate More Water into Their Diet
Your pet does not have to drink only water to get their daily water intake. Incorporating a more water-based diet can encourage your pet to consume more water than they would otherwise.
For dogs, mixing their kibble with water is an easy way for them to increase their water intake. When water is added to dry food, the kibble expands and releases the smell within, which can increase your dog’s interest.
3. Safety First
DON’T leave your dog in your car when you run into a store in the summer! Either leave the air conditioning on in your car, go to a dog-friendly retailer or don’t bring your dog with you when you run errands.
4. Time Your Walks
Take your dog on walks in the early morning or late evening when the heat of the day has passed. When you walk your dog, make sure the pavement isn’t too hot for their feet! Avoid going out in the heat of the day, usually between noon and 3 p.m.
5. Cooling Contraptions
There are special beds and mats made for keeping your dog cool for sale, but a wet towel laid on the ground would work well indoors or outdoors to cool your dog off on a hot day! You can also wet a bandanna and tie it around your dog’s neck.