Warmer weather means more fun and adventures for pets and their people, but heatstroke, sunburn, and painful burned paws are all potential dangers. In the excitement of a holiday celebration or a day at the beach, your pet’s needs can be forgotten. Pets and people differ in that pets can more easily overheat and fall victim to sun-related illnesses. The following five tips will help you and your pet avoid a summertime emergency.
1: Pets need sunburn protection, too
If you find yourself needing to put on sunscreen, your pet may need protection, as well. Pets who have short hair and light-colored skin are especially prone to sunburn, and all pets’ noses and ear tips are at risk. Sunscreen formulated specifically for animals is available, although a human product made for babies or sensitive skin can also be used. Never use a sunscreen product that contains zinc, as zinc toxicity can occur if ingested.
2: Protect paws, and pause before walks
Minimize or eliminate the time you and your pet spend on hot concrete or asphalt surfaces, as your pet’s paw pads have little natural protection against intense heat. If exposure to hot, hard surfaces can’t be avoided, buy your pet a pair of booties that will not only will keep her paws from burning, but will also help keep her body temperature down and slow overheating. If the surface is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it is too hot for your dog.
3: Don’t take off your pet’s winter coat
Many pet owners think that shaving a long-haired pet will make her more comfortable in summer, when the opposite is true. A thick hair coat helps insulate pets against the heat, and acts as a natural sunscreen. Shaving removes this natural insulation and exposes your pet’s skin to the elements. Special grooming techniques can help keep your pet’s coat as sleek as possible in the summer, so ask our veterinary team or consult with our groomer, Amanda, about what might be best for your pet.
4: Water, water everywhere—be wary with your pet
Taking your dog to the lake or beach sounds like making the best of a beautiful day, but never forget that the water can be dangerous for your pet.
- It’s a popular misconception that all dogs swim well, so watch your pet any time she is in the water and ensure she can get out safely. Life jackets are useful, especially if your pet will be in a large body of water like a lake, or on a boat. Water accidents happen to pets, too, and a life jacket could be the difference between life and death.
- If your dog is swimming, be aware of the biological risks, including toxic plants, native snakes, and insects.
- If your pet spends time in or near a body of salt water, offer her fresh water frequently. Drinking too much salt water can make dogs sick, and can be fatal.
- Ingesting water from a pool or lake can also make your dog ill. Wash the chlorine off your pet after she swims in a pool.
5: Don’t be cool about your pet overheating
Anytime your dog is outside in the summer, especially when she is active, she is at risk of developing heat-related illness or more serious heatstroke. Unlike humans, dogs can only sweat through small glands in their feet, and can only cool themselves by panting. If their body temperature increases more quickly than their panting can control, heat-related illness occurs. Signs of heatstroke include:
- Excessive panting
- Glazed eyes
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive thirst
- Lack of coordination
- Profuse salivation
- A deep red or purple tongue
Animals with shortened snouts, such as pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and Persian cats, are at higher risk of developing heat issues and should always be watched closely. If signs of heat stress occur, move your pet immediately into a shaded or cool area, give her small amounts of water to drink, and wet her down with cool—never cold—water. Then, take her to our hospital or the nearest emergency veterinarian, because heatstroke is a serious condition.
Every pet owner needs to protect pets from danger during the warm summer months. These five tips can help keep your pet safe and let you enjoy the season together. Our team is here to help you with any summer-related concerns, so don’t hesitate to call.