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Summer heat safety for pets

Posted by Jennifer on June 4th, 2013

We love veggie hot dogs, but real hot dogs – as in overheated canines – are no fun! Neither are hot cats, hot rabbits, or any other hotter-than-comfortable pets. As temperatures soar and humans take shelter inside air conditioned and fan cooled homes, it’s important to remember that pets can experience heatstroke and other dangerous conditions more quickly than humans. Since they can tell us how sick or painful they are, it’s up to us humans to be on the lookout for certain symptoms, and keep our pets’ summer heat safety in mind. Pools and summertime parties can present special seasonal challenges as well. To help you and your pets keep your cool this summer, we’ve assembled some of our hottest tips for beating the heat below!

Pets in Cars

Confinement in a car or any other poorly ventilated enclosure can be fatal to your dog or other pet. One study reports that when the outside temperature is just 78°F, a closed car will reach 90°F in five minutes, and 110°F in 25 minutes. Shade and even 4 cracked open windows don’t hardly make a difference! Check out  MyDogIsCool.com for the full results of the temperature testing with cars closed, 2 and 4 windows cracked. Don’t take your dog if you have to leave him/her in the car without you, even just for a minute.

Exercise

Avoid exercising of your dog during hot days or warm, humid nights. The best time to exercise is either early in the morning before sunrise or late in the evening after the sun goes down. One vet tells us to know your dog’s fitness level, and let them set the pace. Avoid exercising in hot or humid weather. If they start panting excessively or suddenly seem drained, it’s time for a break. Cool down in the shade, offer them water to drink, pour tepid (not cold) water on their paws or if possibly hose their body. Watch out for signs of heatstroke (click link & see paragraph below): death occurs within minutes of the dog’s core temperature reaching 110°F. If you see signs of heatstroke, get them to a vet immediately to increase their chances of survival.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke develops rapidly and is often associated with exposure to high temperatures, humidity and poor ventilation. Symptoms include panting, a staring or anxious expression, failure to respond to commands, warm, dry skin, extremely high temperature, dehydration, rapid heartbeat and collapse. Very young and older pets tend to be more susceptible. Pets more susceptible to heat stress include those who recently moved from cool to warmer climates, those with cardiovascular or respiratory conditions, or with a history of heat stress. Rabbits are often smart enough to lie next to a frozen water bottle to stay cool, but other pets such as cats and dogs should be kept in as cool an area as possible. With any form of heat stress, prompt veterinary attention is important to deal with potential complications, including death.

Sunburn

Pets who have recently received short haircuts may become sunburn victims and are as susceptible to heat stress as dogs who haven’t had their fur trimmed. In fact, your pet’s hair has insulating characteristics to help protect him from the heat — that summer trim should be long, not short! Also, white coated pets can get sunburned if they have naturally short or thinner coats. Pink nosed pets including dogs, cats, and rabbits, can get badly sunburned on noses and ears, which can make them more prone to skin cancer. Dogs can get sunburned on their bellies and inside of their hind legs when sunlight reflects off of sand or water like the pool or ocean. Check with your vet for a pet-safe sunscreen, or keep at-risk pets indoors when the sun is high.

Hot Pavement

Asphalt maybe should be called asp-hot! Did you know when the air temperature is outside is measured at 77 degrees, asphalt in the sun has been measured at 125 degrees, and jump up to 86 or 87 degrees outside, and asphalt can sizzle your skin (or your pet’s paws) at 135 to 143 degrees… and egg can fry in 5 minutes at 131 degrees! Our friend Dr. Pia Salk brought these mind-scorching numbers to our attention in a recent article on her Blog at MarthaStewart.com. Pia points out that while most of us have witnessed or experienced the driveway dance of a human in bare feet, we don’t often think of the effect that burning hot surface has on the bare four paws of our companion animals out for a stroll. She offers up some good advice for judging how safe the ground temperature is for Fido’s feet, which isn’t as simple as it may seem… Read more about paws & hot pavement here.

Pool safety

Never leave a dog unattended with access to a swimming pool. Even a dog who has never shown interest in getting in the water may accidentally slip in, or give it a try on a hot summer day. A dog’s instinct is to turn around and try to get out where they fell in, which may work well in a river or lake, but not in a pool. With the assistance of a professional dog trainer, teach your dog how to swim safely to the steps, and get out. If you don’t have access to a trainer, check out Barker Busters Pool Training article here. It’s a good idea to do a mini refresher course at the beginning of pool season each year too! Child-proof pool fencing can give your pooch an added layer of protection, but keep in mind your dog’s jumping and burrowing ability if you’re relying on that fencing to keep your pooch pool safe when you’re gone.

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