Tips for Pet Pawrents
Heat wave! This summer has been no joke. The temperatures have soared, and it looks like they’re stuck up there. With this increased heat and sun exposure, your pets are likely feeling the effects. But what are we to do? Dogs need to go outside to do their business, love to sunbathe, and need their exercise. In this post we’ve pulled together some tips and some products that can help you protect your dog from the high temperatures and safely get their vitamin D.
Damage Caused by the Heat
First, before we get into how to protect your pet this summer let’s look at some of the conditions caused by overexposure to heat and sun. It’s helpful after all, to know what you are protecting them from. Knowing these conditions will help you to watch for signs and symptoms so that you can keep them cool and healthy.
Either caused by overheating or bacterial infection, hot spots are areas of inflamed skin. These start developing as a small red spot, which can often be mistaken for a bug bite. While they start small, these spots can grow rapidly and eventually turn into a painful lesion. You can find various over the counter treatments for hot spots but it’s best to consult your vet.
Increased respiration, and heart rate, and panting are the most obvious signs of your dog overheating. Dogs who are suffering from overheating or heat stroke will also appear a bit weak, out of sorts or in a stupor. Your dog may collapse, have a seizure, vomit, or have bloody diarrhea as well. You can also check for an elevated body temperature.
If you have a flat-faced brachycephalic pet, either cat or dog, they are more susceptible to overheating as they have more difficulty breathing. Since respiration helps regulate body temperatures these pets are heat intolerant and should be monitored carefully in hot weather.
Burned or Blistered Pads/Paws:
If your pet stays on hot pavement or asphalt for too long, the pads of their paws will burn. Similar to the way our skin burns these can range from red and sore to blistered paws. Before walking your pet on these surfaces check the heat with your hand. You can use pet booties to help keep your pet’s paws safe but avoiding these hot surfaces is the best way to keep them safe.
Excessive panting is the obvious sign of being hot and getting dehydrated. Watch for bloodshot eyes or pale or light-colored gums are another sign. You can also do a gentle pinch test: take some of your dog’s skin between your fingers and lift it up, when they are dehydrated it takes longer to go back into place.
Keeping your Dog Safe from the Heat
Take Advantage of Cooler Parts of the Day
Generally, the mornings and evenings are cooler as you are avoiding the blazing afternoon sun. You can help protect your pet by taking your walks or playing outside earlier or later in the day. This will allow your pet to get their exercise without the risk of overheating, dehydrating, etc.
Walking or Playing on the Grass
Grass generally stays cooler than concrete or asphalt. These harder surfaces absorb the heat and can get really hot. Even your deck or patio can get overly hot if it’s in direct sunlight for any length of time. Much like our feet, our dogs paw pads can burn or blister on hot surfaces. When we don our tennis shoes for a walk, we can forget how hot these surfaces can get as our feet aren’t directly touching them. Use your hand to feel the sidewalk or street and if it’s too hot, try walking your pet on the grass.
Cool Off in the Shade
Find shady spots to play as they are cooler both in ambient temperature and the ground temperature. Laying on cool grass can help dogs lower their body temperature. Playing in the shade is a bonus.
Consider giving your buddy a break on digging holes. Digging down into the dirt is a dog’s natural way of cooling off. The dirt underneath will be cooler than the grass on top of the ground.
Offering a pool is a great way for your pet to cool off, provides a creative space for your pet to play, and gives your pet a drink whenever they want or need it. Just be careful to empty the water when you are done playing and refill for the next use. This will help to cut down parasites like heart-worms.
Products that Help Your Pet Stay Safe in the Sun
There is a wide range of products available to pet owners that help keep your fur baby safe on hot days. It is important to remember however, that these are not 100% effective or effective for long periods of time. You should always keep an eye on your pets and give them breaks indoors as relief from the sun and the high temperatures.
Cooling Pads or Blankets
If you don’t have shade or want to make a cool spot for your pet to lounge, there are pads and blankets that help create a cool spot. Some of these products simply do not retain heat, while others can actually be placed in the refrigerator to be physically cool to the touch. There’s nothing like a cool place to rest for your pet on a hot day.
Cooling Jackets and Vests
If you have a more active pet and are worried about them playing at the park or in your yard, you can find jackets or vests that help reflect the sun and/or keep your pet cool. These are similar to the cooling pads you lay on the ground, only these are fitted to your dog.
While we typically think of booties as winter boots or rain boots for our pets, you can find variants that are designed for higher temperatures in the summer sun. Follow the sizing guides to get the appropriate fit which will enable your dog to maintain their footing on walks and in the park.
Salves and Ointments
From hot spots, to burned pads, to dry skin and noses, there are now many products both natural and medicated, to treat your pup’s skin. Consult your veterinarian for trusted brands or recommended products.
Sunscreen for Pups
Similar to the products designed for humans, there is now spray sunscreen available for pets. Follow the directions on the packaging for a bit of safe sun. This is great for pets with short hair, bald spots, scars, etc.
Hot Weather Eating Tips
Some dogs develop a picky appetite when it gets hot. Freeze bone broth in an ice cube tray and add a cube or two to their meals. Summer is definitely the season for feeding frozen raw bones. Dogs love holding the cold bone in their mouths until it warms enough for them to begin serious gnawing. If you are giving your pets raw frozen dog food or cat food and normally letting it thaw before feeding, try feeding it straight from the freezer. A quarter section of a NWN dinner bar fed frozen may perk up a languid appetite. And sometimes smaller more frequent meals help break up the monotony of those dog days of summer.
Things to Absolutely Avoid
Do Not Shave Your Pet
If your pet has long hair, they can most certainly go for a trim. But pets should not be shaved down. While we might think that this will help keep them cool, their fur actually helps regulate their body temperature and protect them from sunburn. Instead, consider brushing your pet more frequently. This will help to excrete and spread their fur’s natural oils which can help to hydrate skin and protect it from heat and sun exposure.
Do Not Leave Your Dog in the Car
We’ve heard the warnings, but the consequences are dire. Left in a hot car, your pet can go from fine to in danger or dead quickly. It’s best to leave your companion home on hot days, even if you are just running a quick errand. This has become such a problem that now in some states it is legal for strangers to break the windows of a car to rescue an overheating pet. Other states have made it legal for law enforcement or first responders to break the windows of a vehicle. If you see a dog that is suffering in a vehicle, first call and report the incident. Find more information on the American Veterinary Medical Association website.
Be smart, be safe and sound, and have a wonderful Summer!