As of the moment I’m writing this, July in NE Oklahoma has had 24 days over 100 degrees (and I have no doubt that by the time I finish writing this and posting it, that will have become 25). Our furry friends need extra consideration for their health, safety, and comfort in this kind of weather.
Who’s at risk?
“Smooshed” faces (the technical term is “brachycephalic”), like English bulldogs and Persian cats are more at risk than other pets. Since one of the most important ways for dogs and cats to regulate their body temperature is through panting, pets with breathing restrictions, like smooshed-face dogs and cats, have more difficulty cooling off than their non-smooshed cousins.
Pets who are overweight or elderly are more susceptible to overheating, as are pets with chronic diseases, heart problems, or breathing problems.
Hairless pets like Chinese crested dogs or Sphinx cats have a different risk. They are more likely to suffer skin damage from exposure to the sun.
Try to keep at-risk pets indoors during the worst of the heat for their own safety.
Visit your vet.
First, if you haven’t visited your vet recently, get your pet a check up, especially a heartworm test, and make sure you don’t have to worry about any of those risks like obesity or a heart problem.
Have shade handy.
Make sure your pet has a way to get out of the sun. If you don’t have trees, make a canopy or a lean-to with a tarp.
Avoid asphalt or concrete.
Roads, sidewalks, and even back porches heat up fast under the hot sun. Your pet will become overheated quickly on these surfaces, and may even suffer burns as the sun continues. Make sure your pet has a way to get off the concrete and onto dirt or grass!
Lots of it, and make sure it’s fresh and clean and in the shade. Water can become hot enough to cause burns, and can grow bacteria, algae, and even provide a breeding place for mosquitoes, so make sure you empty and clean it at least once daily. Dehydration is a huge risk when a pet spends a lot of time outside in the heat.
When the temperature is in the triple digits, avoid hard exercise or even hard play, especially for those smooshed-face guys. Let your furry friends take it easy. Some extremely playful pets may need to be discouraged from overexerting.
Treat them with air conditioning.
When it’s really hot (like now), consider allowing even your outdoor pets to soak up some AC.
Pets with pale skin are vulnerable to sunburn just like humans. White cats are at increased risk for skin cancer if they get too much sun. Making sure they have shade and can come indoors will help prevent sunburn.
Consider a “summer ‘do”
Long or thick coated dogs like huskies or chows will appreciate a cut to help them stay cool. Their coats are designed to keep heat in… so get them a haircut. Discuss with your groomer or vet how short you should go; you don’t want to reduce their risk of overheating just to increase their risk of a nasty sunburn.
Sprinklers, hoses, and pools (oh my!)
Some dogs love to play with water. If yours doesn’t, just skip this part. If your dog DOES enjoy water, a sprinkler or baby pool may help them stay cool while outdoors. However, do not ever leave your pets unsupervised around a pool deep enough for swimming or at the lake or beach. They may not be able to get out.
Watch for signs of trouble.
The first sign that your pet is becoming overheated is panting. A cat panting at all, or a dog panting excessively (wide open mouth, tongue hanging out, breathing harshly, drooling, tongue and gums may be red or purplish) needs to get cooled off immediately inside an air conditioned house. Offer an overheated pet fresh water and moisten the paw pads with water. If they don’t seem to be cooling off within a few minutes, call your veterinarian. If you have a thermometer you can use, your vet may ask you to take your pet’s temperature.
Signs of a more serious problem include weakness and collapse, especially if they are responding little or not at all. You might also see vomiting, blood from the nose or in the stool, shaking or even seizures. If you find your pet in this condition, spray with water or drape with a wet towel, moisten the paw pads, groin, and “arm pits” with water or alcohol and get to your vet or an emergency vet as quickly as possible. This is a very serious condition and needs medical care immediately. Caution – use room temperature water. Do not use cold water as this can lower the temperature too rapidly and create even more health risks.
Visit the ASPCA for more: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/pet-care-tips/hot-weather-tips.aspx
© Donna A Leahey, 2011