Use care and caution while enjoying outdoor activities in extreme heat with your pet.
Summertime is the favorite time of year for many people. Avid pet lovers look forward to the warm weather and the added opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities with their furry companions. Being aware of the warm-weather hazards to your pet can make this time of year safer and more enjoyable. Prevention is better than treatment and more often yields the best results, so don't take a chance on risking your pet's health or your own. Follow some basic "good sense" rules:
Summer is here and more families and their pets will spend extended hours outdoors enjoying the sun. Remember that animals suffer the same heat-related ailments humans do, and more often manifest symptoms sooner than their human counterparts. Pet owners should take note: A recent pet insurance analysis of 2007 policyholder claims for dogs and cats shows an increase in ailments during the summer. Beware of the extra health hazards and increased risks and dangers associated with warm-weather months. If you are feeling overheated or sick, your pet is probably feeling ill too, and may be having more difficulty recovering from these conditions. Pay close attention to the behavior your pet is exhibiting. You may need to take your pet indoors immediately and treat him for heat exhaustion.
While it may sound funny because of their fur coats, and maybe even a little impossible, animals can get sunburns too. Like people with fair complexions, this is particularly common in animals with light fur and not a lot of it. Animals can experience peeling, pain, and itchy skin due to sunburn. It is important to apply sunscreen to the tips of a dog's ears, its nose, and the edges of the lips. Even with sunscreen, it is safer to keep your pet inside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. especially on extremely hot days. In addition, sunburn is common on body areas not protected by fur or dark skin such as the underbelly (particularly on dogs that lay outdoors in the sun), and may lead to skin cancer. Consult your veterinarian regarding sunscreen; a light application on exposed skin may help prevent both sunburn and skin cancer, especially in pets with light fur and pale pigmentation.
A dog's fur is designed to assist the dog in staying cool by releasing heat from the body. Unfortunately, when the fur is tangled or matted, it can't keep the dog cool and will actually trap heat close to the body, which can increase the risk of heat exhaustion. It is very important to keep the fur tangle free so that the dog won't get overheated. If you don't have the time to keep the dog's fur perfectly brushed all the time or the fur is extra thick, it may make sense to shave the dog for the summer.
In the heat, a dog may be tempted to drink from puddles, not caring what the puddle may be and surely not knowing the difference. This is dangerous as puddles can contain many harmful fluids associated with outdoors and hot weather, like anti-freeze from hot cars, oil, and gasoline from lawnmowers and gas cans. It is easier to carry water with you and keep a close watch on your pet outdoors, than it is to rush the dog to the emergency vet because it has ingested something toxic and life-threatening.
Pets are treated more frequently in the summer due to their increased exposure to the outdoors. Use common sense and be cautious about overdoing summer activities with their pets. Running for long periods in extreme heat will be extremely difficult for your dog to cool down from without assistance. High temperatures can lead to sunburn and heat stroke. Access to swimming pools can lead to ear infections or—worse case scenario—a pet accidentally falling into a pool and drowning (even if they like the water and can swim) because they are weak from over-exertion in extreme heat.
Warm weather also brings outdoor pests in greater numbers. Like humans insects and spiders of all shapes and sizes come out of their hiding places during the summer once the weather becomes nicer. Insect bites and stings on dogs and cats increase in July and August. Keep your pet away from bees, wasps and woodpiles that may harbor spiders. If you notice your pets nibbling or scratching at a particular part of their body after being outdoors, check to make sure they haven't been bitten or stung. If they have a lump or knot, check with your veterinarian about treating an insect bite or sting. Your pet may need some treatment to make them comfortable and to avoid them digging at the affected site and causing more damage or possible infection. Mosquitoes congregate near water. Rid your yard of even the shallowest pools of water (including the toddler’s pool) so mosquitoes don’t breed.
Foxtails—a type of grass with sharp, bristle like fibers commonly found on paths and grassy hillsides can cause serious hazard. The sharp points extend forward, embedding the foxtail in the pet’s paws, ears, eyes or nose, inevitably causing an infection and potential death if digested.
Hot sidewalks can be very painful for pets and may burn the pads of your pet's paws. If you enjoy outdoor walks with your pet, try to time those during the cooler morning hours or early evening when the concrete walkways have had a chance to cool down. Gravel paths can become very hot and painful on your pet's feet, so use caution when traveling those with your pet during the hottest hours of the day.
Near drownings for pets are as common as those for humans. Water safety for pets is every bit as important as it is for humans. Don't let your pet spend time in or near water without proper supervision. Even an animal that enjoys the water or is comfortable in and around it, can encounter dangers and difficulties, especially when overheated and weak. Although relatively rare, cases of near drownings do increase during summer. If your pet falls into a pool, inhales water and appears to be in danger, keep your pet warm and dry thoroughly. Contact your veterinarian immediately. If your pet does enjoy the water, be watchful of ear infections, frequently caused by trapped water in a dog’s ear after swimming or bathing. If your pet is prone to water activities, speak to your veterinarian regarding specific ear cleaning products that will help dry the ear canal to prevent recurring ear infections.
It's a good idea to keep your pet indoors as much as possible during the warmest hours of the day (usually 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Never leave your pet in the car unattended, even with the windows open, or outdoors for long periods without some sort of shelter or shade for relief. It may sound simple, but it can often be forgotten - Always have an ample supply of drinking water! Remember that water will evaporate in hot weather, so check the bowl often throughout the day not only to keep it full, but to make sure your pet isn't left with trying to drink boiling water!
Have a safe and fun summer with your family and your pet!
Pet Assure is the largest veterinary network in the U.S. with over 5,600 veterinarians.