Keeping Your Pets Safe During Summer Heat

Playing in the summer sunshine with your dog is great fun, but there are a few simple precautions you can take to keep your dogs cool in the heat and protect them from heat-related problems.  By understanding how your dog copes with the warm temperatures and planning ahead you can avoid potentially dangerous situations.

How dogs cool off
Dogs cool down and regulate their body temperature by panting and sweating through their paws and nose. As a dog breathes in, air travels through their nasal passage and is cooled before it reaches the lungs. When temperatures become warmer and more humid, a dog has a harder time cooling down. Your dog’s heart and lungs work harder as your dog breathes in and out quicker to reduce their body temperature. This is especially true in short-snouted dogs, who have a harder time cooling down because of their shorter nasal passages.

Here are a few safety tips when taking your dog out in warm weather:
  • Visit the Vet –  A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pets get tested for heartworm if they aren’t on year-round preventive medication. Do parasites bug your animal companions? Ask your doctor to recommend a safe flea and tick control program.
  • Made in the Shade – Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot outdoors. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful to not over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot.
  • Know the Warning Signs –  Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke. Dogs can succumb to heat stroke very quickly in warm and humid weather because the only way dogs releases heat is by panting and sweating through the foot pads and nose.
  • Prevention is key- Avoid vigorous exercise on hot days, keep your dog hydrated and do not leave him/her alone outside or in a warm space (eg car). That said, if you notice any of these signs in your dog or someone else’s, they may be suffering heat stroke: Vigorous panting Dark red gums Dry gums bloody vomiting or diarrhea lying down and unwilling or can’t get up staggering gait collapse and/or loss of consciousness thick saliva seizures

If the dog is suffering heat stroke:

  • Move the dog out of the heat
  • Cool them off with a shower or tap water or place cool wet rags on their footpads and head.
  • Do NOT use ice cold water – this can actually harm the dog further.
  • Offer the dog water but don’t force him/her to drink.
  • Call or visit the vet right away.

No Parking! Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. “On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time-even with the windows open-which could lead to fatal heat stroke,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. Also, leaving pets unattended in cars in extreme weather is illegal in several states.

Make a Safe Splash –  Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool-not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset.

Summer Style –  Feel free to trim longer hair on your dog, but never shave your dog: The layers of dogs’ coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. And be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.

Avoid Chemicals –  Commonly used flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. Keep citronella candles, oil products and insect coils out of pets’ reach as well. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous substance.

Party Animals – Taking Fido to a backyard barbeque or party? Remember that the food and drink offered to guests may be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as they can cause intoxication, depression and comas. Similarly, remember that the snacks enjoyed by your human friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol.

Fireworks Aren’t Very Pet-riotic – Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and even unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.

Stay off Hot Pavement – One major thing that many dog owners overlook when it’s sunny out is their dog’s feet. Paw pads can be easily burned by hot pavement. Summer heat warms pavements just like a frying pan and if the pavement gets too hot it can burn your dog’s paws. Sand can also get very hot, so use the hand technique to check sandy surfaces too.  Press the back of your hand against the asphaltor concrete for 7 seconds to verify if it will be comfortable for your dog to walk on. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Avoid these surfaces during the day or consider putting protective booties or paw wax  on your dog’s paws as added protection.

Prevent sunburn – 
The ear tips, bridge of the nose, around the eyes and abdomen are all sensitive areas on a dog’s skin. These areas have thinner skin and are more exposed. So, if you plan to be out in hot sun for a while, consider purchasing a sun protector  or high factor waterproof sunscreen MADE FOR DOGS and whenever possible rest in the shade. Also if you have a thin haired dog and/or white dog you may need to take extra precautions as they tend to get sunburned more easily.

Groom shedding dogs and long-haired dogs – Most dogs shed their coats at the beginning of summer, so daily grooming will help to remove the unwanted hair and will make your dog more comfortable. For long-haired dogs, trimming their coat may also help with keeping them cooler in the summer months. Regularly grooming your dogs fur will also give you extra time to check for ticks and fleas and to check their skin and paws are in good shape.

Keep away ticks and fleas. Being outdoors is great, but wooded areas and long grasses also tend to be home for ticks and fleas.

Stay HydratedPack extra water for your dog on any excursion and make sure your dog’s water bowl is always filled and close by. Avoid water with blue-green algae. Unfortunately, a growning number of ponds, lakes and rivers have blooms of blue-green algae during warmer months. It’s important to monitor waterways for unusual algae blooms and be alert to local advisories and warning signs around waterways.

Note: Certain types of dogs are more sensitive to heat especially elderly dogs, overweight dogs and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, like Pugs, Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boxers and even Staffies. Take extreme precautions with these breeds during summer.

By taking a few simple precautions, you will help protect your dog and you will both have a lot more fun in the summer!