With the winter months taking up most of the year, Canadians tend to make the most of their summer months, spending as much time as possible outside soaking in the sun before the next round of winter comes full force.
Parents round up the kids and the family dog for walks in the park, hiking in the mountains, or during camping weekends. Sunscreen is applied, hats are thrown on, water bottles are filled, and bug spray is tossed in the day bag. We know all the things that we need to do to protect ourselves as humans from sunburns, bugs, and heatstroke, but it’s important to remember that our four-legged furry friends also need extra thought and care during the warm summer months to prevent them from overheating and getting sick.
Here are some tips to keep your pet cool and comfortable this summer.
Generally indoors is a safe and cool place for a pet during the summer months. However, if your home does not have air conditioning, run fans and spend time with your pet in the basement which tends to stay cooler. Cooling mats for pets are also a great way for your pet to find relief. Be more aware of the water levels in their drinking dish and keep topped up, adding ice cubes to cool down. Freeze bone broth into popsicles as a treat. Run the sprinkler for a way to cool down and some outdoor time.
Take an allotted amount of water specifically designated for your pet. Collapsible water dishes are easy to find in a pet store or online and take up little space in your day bag. If you are in direct sunlight, be sure to stop on your walk or hike for rests in the shade to cool down your pet. If you notice your pet is slowing down significantly and panting harder than usual, find shade and water, and head home immediately.
Pavement can be scorching hot and dangerous for pets to walk on. Although the pads on their paws and spaces between toes are designed to cool them down and are thicker than human skin, they still aren’t as tough as wearing shoes. The best way to measure if the asphalt is too hot for your pets to walk on is to touch it with your skin. If it’s too hot and uncomfortable for you, it will be too dangerous for your pet. Try to walk them on the grass beside the paved walkway or find unpaved trails to avoid burning the pads on their paws. Cool off their paws with water, or even better yet dab some rubbing alcohol on their paws. Rubbing alcohol evaporates faster than water, taking the heat away quicker.
When camping or on vacation, find locations with trees for shade and nearby water to cool off in. Avoid keeping pets in tents or hot trailers while the family runs to the beach unless your trailer has air conditioning.
Know the Signs of Heatstroke in Pets
Extreme sun exposure and humidity can quickly make your pet sick. It’s important to know and recognize the signs of heatstroke in pets. If your pet is showing any of these signs, get them to the nearest vet for immediate treatment. Start steps to cool them down like wrapping them in a cool wet towel and turning on the car’s AC.
Dogs with short snouts including pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and Boston terriers (as well as cats like Himalayans and Persians with longer fur) tend to have a harder time cooling themselves down effectively and are therefore at higher risk.
Signs & Symptoms of Heatstroke:
- Extreme panting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Anxious expression or staring
- High fever
- Warm, dry skin
Be aware that panting is NOT normal for cats. If you see your kitty panting during the summer it is best advised to take them to the vet immediately.
Extra Precautions and Measures
Avoid the use of a muzzle on your dog during the summer months whenever possible if it doesn’t allow your dog to be able to fully open its mouth to pant. A dog evaporates most of its heat through their tongue.
While human sunscreen is not safe or recommended for pets, there are some safe ones available you can get from your pet if your pet has thin light skin, little fur or hair, and is highly susceptible to skin cancer.
Groom pets with long hair more often during the summer months to help them stay cool.
Keep exercise to a minimum. Short walks at a slower pace are suggested as opposed to long runs. These are best done in the morning or late evening as temperatures are cooler.
Summer is not the time to be taking your pets with you on errands or unnecessary car rides. Never leave your pet in the vehicle. Ever. Even with windows open, the temperature in a car can reach 48 degrees Celsius or more within minutes. A quick run into the store could take longer than planned and be fatal for your pet at this temperature in 10 minutes or less.
Remember, if it’s too hot for you to enjoy being outside, it’s too hot for your pet!
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