Wild animals are well adjusted to the elements and can cope with weather anomalies relatively well. The same cannot be said of our beloved pets. Pets may be just as vulnerable to falling ill in extreme temperatures as humans if not more. Summer safety for pets is too essential to be ignored, carry on reading to learn more.
- Learn to respect the heat
Besides our fantastic evolutionary adaptations including the ability to sweat, we humans can still find a hot day too hard to bear. Our pet animals do not have similarly efficient temperature moderation systems as ours and rely on different approaches to beat the heat. Cats and dogs rely on sweating and moisture release through their paws and panting.
Panting and releasing heat through paws while efficient is not always enough for our pets in summer. Animals with flat faces like bulldogs and exotic Persian Cats find it more difficult to release heat through panting because of small faces that offer a limited surface area for heat exchange. Special care should be taken for animals that are overweight, of advanced age or suffering from diseases of the kidneys and lungs.
- Make adequate arrangements for water and shade
Cats and dogs do like the sun, but the summer sun can cause heatstroke and dehydration. Keep your pets in the shade as much as possible especially during mid-day. Pets get a lot thirstier in the summer months make sure that clean and cool water is available for them. Water warms up quickly so make sure to change the water in their bowls frequently. Increasing the frequency of wet food for dogs and cats during summer is recommended as it will provide additional protection from dehydration.
- Watch out for symptoms of overheating
Dogs and cats have a similar range of normal body temperature, for dogs, it is between 38°C – 39.2°C and for cats, it is 37.2°C – 39.2°C. When your cat or dog’s body temperature rises there would be visible symptoms. Heavy panting is the most noticeable sign of overheating. In case of doubt check the gums, bright red and dry gums are another visible sign of excess heat. Apart from these if you notice thick drool, diarrhoea and vomiting during summer; a visit to the vet is highly recommended.
- Water play and summer heat
Not all dogs and cats like to swim so it is not advisable to force your pet into the pool. If your pet enjoys swimming never leave your pet unattended in the pool. Dogs and cats don’t necessarily know how to exit a pool and are not adept at finding or using swimming pool ladders.
Another factor to consider is that the normal body temperature of your pet is different from your body temperature and pets are prone to hypothermia when in the water. Dilated pupils, slow respiration and shivering are common symptoms of hypothermia in pets. Wrap your pet in a blanket and visit the vet at the earliest in case of hypothermia symptoms.
Do not allow your pet in a hot water tub as they can overheat; water temperature that is comfortable for us is generally too hot for pets. If you are taking your pet to the beach or a lake you should have a life jacket for them. After water activities on the beach or pool, it is essential to bathe your pets to remove sand, chlorine and other residues. Make sure to pat them dry as leaving their fur wet is hazardous especially in summer.
- Managing parasites
While it is essential to treat pets for parasites regularly it gets even more critical during summer. Fleas, ticks and other parasites display increased activity in the hotter months and treatment for these is one of the most essential summer tips for pet owners. Parasites can cause anaemia and be carriers for diseases like Bartonella and Lyme disease. Parasites like fleas and ticks also carry with them other parasites like tapeworms and heartworms.
- Change walking and outside playtime
Our pets enjoy strolling and open-air playtime but the summer sun can be a bad boy. Changing the time and schedule for taking pets outside is highly recommended, mid-day outings should be avoided as much as possible. Take your pets out in the earlier parts of the morning or late evenings, night time walks are not a bad idea. Surfaces like asphalt can get very hot and potentially hurt the sensitive paw pads of your furry friend. One tip is to touch the ground with the palm of your hand, if it is very hot you should consider another time for a stroll.
- Never shave the coat
The fur coats of animals keep them safe from the cold and are extremely useful to regulate body temperature in the hotter months. Dogs and cats have developed these coats over millions of years of evolution to protect them year-round in all weather conditions. Shaving that coat might sound like a good way to keep them cool but it will take away the natural protection provided to them by evolution.
- Sunscreens for pets
It might sound strange but sunscreens for pets are available. If your pet has a very thin fur coat with short fine hair or has very light coloured fur it may not provide adequate protection from the sun. Consult your vet and ask if your pet needs to use sunscreen, veterinarian can also guide you on the type of sunscreen to use and how to use it.
- Never leave your pet in the car
This is the one tip that is constantly repeated in almost all pet care related blogs and forums. It is a bad idea to leave your pet in the car in any season and extremely dangerous in the summer months. Dogs and cats left in the care will rapidly overheat and suffer a heat stroke within minutes, parking in the shade and leaving windows open isn’t very useful either.
The bottom line
We have mostly covered safety tips for dogs and cats but some of the same approaches should work with most pets including other mammals, birds and reptiles. Suggestions like providing shade, ample water and regulating outside playtime apply to most animals. People that have kept exotic pets should refer to specific blogs and forums for more information to protect pets in summer heat.
Animals suffering from heat exhaustion would display any one or more of these symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Increased heartbeat and respiration
- Dried gums
- Heavy panting
- Dilated pupils
- Excessive salivation
- Lack of coordination
These symptoms are not to be taken lightly in the hotter months.