Our pets love summer just as much as we do! It’s the best time of year to be out and about and enjoying all that the season has to offer, from picnics to hikes, swimming, running, or just enjoying a nap in the backyard with your best canine friend.
Warm weather can be dangerous for our pets. It’s hard for pets to keep cool when the sun is beating down, and that’s because animals don’t sweat like people do. You probably knew that dogs cool themselves through panting, but did you know that they sweat through their paws too? When there is only hot air for a dog to breathe, it’s a lot harder for that dog to keep cool. And while cats tend tolerate the heat a little better than dogs, and even prefer it (we’ve all seen a cat stretched out on a sunny windowsill), that doesn’t mean that you should forget about your cat this summer! Read on to learn some important summer safety tips for dogs and cats:
1. Never, ever, EVER leave your pet in a hot car. It can take minutes – yes, MINUTES – for a pet to develop heat stroke and suffocate in a car. Most people don’t realize how hot it gets in parked cars. On a 78 degree day, for instance, temperatures in a car can reach 90 degrees in the shade and top 160 degrees if parked directly in the sun! Your best bet is to leave your pet home on warm days. If you’re driving around with your dog or cat in the car, bring water and a water dish and take your pet with you when you leave the car.
2. Make sure your pet is protected from parasites like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. If not protected, your pet is at risk for heartworm, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a host of other nasty and dangerous conditions. And don’t forget, many of these diseases can be caught by people, too!
3. Keep the paws in mind. When the sun is cooking, surfaces like asphalt or metal can get really hot! Try to keep your pet off of hot asphalt; not only can it burn paws, but it can also increase body temperature and lead to overheating. Also, it’s not a good idea to drive around with your dog in the bed of a truck – the hot metal can burn paws quickly (and they can fall out or be injured or killed in an accident).
4. Your pet should always have access to fresh water and shade. Our pets, especially dogs, get much thirstier than we do when they get hot, and other than panting and drinking, they really have no way to cool themselves down. Also, get your pet in the shade as often as possible. While dogs and cats like to sunbathe, direct sunlight can overheat them (especially dogs) and cause heat stroke.
5. If your dog loves to swim, give him his very own “kiddy pool.” Dogs who love the water love it even more in the hot months and getting wet keeps them cool. Providing a small, kid-sized pool will also keep them safe.
6. Just because dogs instinctively know how to swim doesn’t mean they’re good swimmers. And if they jump in your swimming pool, they might not be able to get out without help and could easily drown. Make sure your dog can’t get into your swimming pool without you around. And if that’s not possible, make sure he can get out on his own.
7. Believe it or not, dogs can sunburn, especially those with short or light-colored coats. And just like for people, sunburns can be painful for a dog and overexposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer. Talk to your veterinarian about sunscreens for your pet (don’t assume a sunscreen for people is appropriate for your dog).
8. If you can’t trust your dog 100% to come when called, keep him on a leash. Summertime means all sorts of exciting sights, scents, critters running around, and new and exciting places to explore. You never want to lose your pet because they became distracted in an unfamiliar environment and was lost or harmed in an accident. And remember, not every dog is meant to be off-leash; some dogs just can never be fully trusted to come when called. Make sure you understand your dog’s tendencies and err on the side of being overly-cautious.
9. After a long winter, many dogs put on a few extra pounds. Summer is the perfect time to increase his level of exercise and get in tip-top shape. A pet that maintains a healthy weight throughout his lifetime will live, on average, 2-3 years longer than an overweight pet! Just make sure not to over-exert your dog – give him or her adequate rest and if your dog is especially overweight, make sure you ease him or her into physical activity.
10. This one’s for the cats: keep your windows screened! We all know cats love windowsills. You may want your house to be ventilated, but you definitely do not want your kitty to fall out!
And perhaps most important, pay attention to your dog and cat – you’ll know when they seem uncomfortable. Summer can be a great time to spend with your dog or cat, but it’s important to keep these tips in mind as the days grow longer! Also, be sure to check out our tips for barbecue and firework safety.
And as always, make sure you talk with your veterinarian about any questions or concerns you have about your pets in warm summer weather.