Everyone knows that a car can quickly become an oven and leaving a pet inside a car is summer’s number one DON’T DO. But perhaps you are not aware that dogs can also suffer from hyperthermia (heat stress) without being locked in a car. Being in a sunny location, such as a beach, for prolonged period of time, exercising and certain breeds and medical conditions can all increase your pet’s risk of hyperthermia.
Do you know if your pet is more susceptible to heat stress? Is your pet overweight? Is he a brachiocephalics (pets with flat faces)? How old is she? Has your dog been given a diagnosis of laryngeal paralysis? All of these pets have a more difficult time with temperature regulation and have a greater difficulty removing heat from their body.
Leaving our canine friends at home to snooze on the cool tile floor is a great way to keep our pets cool this summer, but summer fun is all about camping, hiking and being outside – and often bringing our dogs and seeing them enjoy the outdoors, makes the day just that much better! SO here are Fraser Valley Animal Hospital’s top tips for keeping your dog cool this summer.
Unlike humans, dogs and cats have few sweat glands, which hinder them from cooling off by sweating. Instead, their primary source of heat lose is by moisture evaporation from their lungs, which is done by panting. The moisture loss associated with panting needs to be replaced, so it’s important to keep some fresh drinking water available at all times.
When you are away from home, if you keep your pet outside, be mindful of the fact that a shady area of the yard in the morning can become a hot and uncomfortable spot in the afternoon. Make sure you have a sheltered area available that your dog can retreat to and escape the sun. If you are going camping, or out for the day with your dog, consider your choice of location. Is there shade for you to be able to retreat to? Consider taking a beach umbrella to make your own shade.
- NO PARKING
NEVER LEAVE ANY PET IN A PARKED CAR, not even for a few minutes! Even in the shade, the temperature in a park car will increase within minutes to life threatening levels. I cannot stress this enough…IT ONLY TAKES MINUTES FOR DEATH TO OCCUR!
- SUN SCREEN
Many pet owners do not know that pets with light-coloured skin and hair can get sunburned. So as you slather on the sunscreen remember your pet too, especially those unprotected areas such as the nose and ears. If you are going to be in a situation where your pet will be spending a long time outside, especially on a hot sunny day, and your dog has that thin white fur and pink muzzle consider using a waterproof sunscreen made for babies. Always check with your veterinarian that the product you chose id pet safe.
- EXERCISE WISELY
Another cause of hyperthermia is when we exercise our pets on a warm day. I was running a 10km race in Abbotsford when I caught up with a woman running with her dog. The signs were subtle but it was clear this dog was starting to overheat. She explained how she always ran with her dog, but this day was an unusually warm morning. Later as I was walking across the grass I saw the lady cross the finish line with a wet and much happier dog. She had taken her dog for a swim and opted to walk the last part of the race! This lady loved her dog that was obvious, but was not aware that heat stress can occur even in milder conditions. One must always be observant and ready to change plans as needed.
When you are out running or walking with your dog on a hot day, be mindful that your dog maybe susceptible to heat-stress. The solution of course is to choose the time you exercise your dog wisely. Early mornings or late evenings, when the temperature is cooler, tends to be a better time to go for a walk. Another thing to consider is where you choose to go for a walk. Consider shaded pathways and cool dirt paths, as hot pavement or asphalt can be hot enough to result in burned feet! And remember to bring water for both you and your dog.
- TO SHAVE OR NOT TO SHAVE
In my appointment room I have had many owners ask me whether it is a good idea to shave their pet for the summer. One would think that animals with longer hair would be cooler in the summer if you gave them a haircut. What owners need to know is that a pet’s coat insulates against cold and heat. When it comes grooming what you want to do is to make sure to brush your pet’s hair regularly to get rid of mats and remove any loose undercoat.
- TIME FOR A DIP
Pool etiquette for pets and small children is very similar. One should always be cautious when pets are in or around the pool. Also remember your pet has aged a year since last summer and some pets now may have more difficulty getting in and out of the pool. Consider the use of ramps and life jackets when around water whether it is a lake or a pool. The use of kiddie pools in the shade are a great and inexpensive way to help your dog cool down on those hot days of summer.
- WEIGHT WATCHERS
Studies show that up to 50% of pets in North America are overweight. Besides the added risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer, obesity also increases a pets’ risk to heat stress. Overweight dogs and cats are more susceptible to heat stress as their added layers of fat acts as insulation, trapping the heat. As we know panting is an important part of heat exchange and that additional fat restricts a pet’s breathing, thus inhibiting their ability to regulate their body temperature.
Not sure if your pet is at his/her ideal weight? Check out…
If your pet is overweight always talk to your veterinarian to get advice on how to help your pet lose weight safely. Need some added help check out these 10 steps to successful weight loss.
Now go out there and have some safe summer fun!