Summer is the season for fun, but just as you keep your family safe in the heat, it’s important to keep your pets safe too. Here are some tips to keep your pet healthy this summer, with some help from Dr. Lynn Buzhardt, DVM, of the Animal Center in Zachary.
Watch for heatstroke
Dogs can develop heatstroke fairly quickly. “Older dogs and brachycephalic breeds (those with short noses like Boxers, Pekingese, etc.) are particularly susceptible to overheating,” says Dr. Buzhardt. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, disorientation, warm skin, vomiting, collapsing and rapid heartbeat. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from this, lower the animal’s body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of the body. According to Dr. Buzhardt, “Dogs don’t perspire like people do, they dissipate heat through their respiratory passages and foot pads, so make sure you wet his foot pads when cooling him down.” Dr. Buzhardt says that heat stroke victims usually need emergency medical care and body temperatures over 106 degrees can result in irreversible organ damage or death. Call your veterinarian right away for further advice.
Never leave your pet in the car.It may seem like a car trip will cool off your pet, but it will probably do more harm than good if you leave them in the car, even for a few minutes. Dr. Buzhardt says, “We can’t over emphasize the danger of leaving pets in cars. If the air conditioner is off, temperatures soar to critical levels within minutes.” So if your pet is coming along for the ride, make sure you can take him with you any time you turn off the car.
Pets need extra hydration, but watch what they drink
Just like humans, pets need a lot of water, especially during the spring and summer. Dr. Buzhardt says to “provide your pet with a ready supply of clean, cool water. Drop a few ice cubes in the water bowl so your dog has a refreshing drink.” But don’t leave water out for too long in the heat. “Harmful bacteria and mold accumulate on outdoor water bowls, so frequent re-fills and washing are necessary to prevent gastro-intestinal problems,” she adds.
When pets are extra thirsty, they are bound to drink something they shouldn’t. Puddles on the ground may look like water, but they could contain dangerous chemicals like antifreeze, so keep an eye out when they are panting and looking for something to sip on.
Pets need sunscreen
Just like humans, your cat or dog can get extremely sunburned, especially if he has light colored hair. Animal sunburns can cause the same problems as that of humans: peeling, redness and even skin cancer. Skin cancer in pets is much more prevalent than one would assume, so purchasing pet-friendly sunscreen can go a long way in protecting the health of your pet when the heat kicks in. Apply sunscreen liberally to sensitive areas like inside the nostrils, tip of nose, around the lips and the inside of ears for pets with stand-up ears, but Dr. Buzhardt says avoid getting it in the eyes. Also avoid sunscreen that contains zinc, which can make a pet sick if ingested. You can find pet sunscreen online and in some pet stores. Dr. Buzhardt says that baby sunscreen will also work for pets. You should consult your vet for recommendations on the best sunscreen option for your pet.
Too much exercise can be harmful
There are quick and easy ways for you and your pet to get in shape together this summer, but don’t overdo it in the heat. Keep walks to a gentle pace. If your pet is panting a lot or seems exhausted, it’s time to stop. Try changing up the routine and jogging in intervals, or walking up and down hills. Dr. Buzhardt says that short, brisk walks may be better than marathon runs. “Bring water along in a dog drinking bottle. These ingenious bottles work like hamster watering bottles and dogs learn to sip from them quite readily. Or you can carry a collapsible bowl that holds water well and folds up nicely to fit in your back pack.”
Inside is better than outside
Even if your pet is in the shade, overexposure to the heat can make him sick very quickly. As much as Fido wants to go outside, it is usually smarter to keep him inside as much as possible. Never leave him outside for long periods of time on a hot day. If you have to leave your pet outside, make sure to check on him regularly. Dr. Buzhardt says that if your dog is left outside, you can add an electrolyte supplement to his water, which acts like an energy drink for dogs. “You can purchase Electramine, a powdered water additive, from your veterinarian.” Also, “plastic wading pools are a fun source of activity and a nice place to cool off.”
Discard uneaten food
Although you may leave wet pet food out during the day in cooler temperatures, summer months and warm weather lead to increased bacteria growth. “Even dry pet food spoils quickly during summer months, so don’t leave uneaten food in the bowl. Also, inspect food in automatic feeders frequently to ensure freshness,” says Dr. Buzhardt. If your pet doesn’t eat it immediately, bring the food inside to the cool house, where it can be kept fresh longer, or toss it.