Summertime is coming upon us very quickly here in Florida, and while you may be dreaming of barbecues, fireworks, pool parties, and relaxation, it’s important to remember the special care your furry friends need during the warmest months of the year.
One of the most dangerous parts of summer is the heat. Did you know that dogs can get heat stroke and heat exhaustion, just like we can? As with humans, untreated heat stroke in dogs may cause serious problems like seizures, cardiac arrest, and even coma or death. Let’s talk about how you can prevent this from happening to your canine companions.
You can keep your dog from getting too much heat exposure by actively watching how much he is panting. Panting is the canine coolant system – your dog can’t sweat to keep himself cool, (except from the pads of his feet) but if he is panting excessively, this can be a sign that his body temperature is too high. This is something to watch for to know when it’s time to come back inside. You can also make sure he has access to room temperature (not cold!) water at all times. Cold water, or too much water at one time, along with high body temperature and activity, can cause issues like bloat or colic in many breeds of dogs. Another way to prevent heat stroke is to save outdoor walks and playtime for the coolest parts of the day, like early morning and evening, and minimize outdoor exercise during the scorching midday hours. It may go without saying, but please NEVER leave your pets inside a parked car, even if you are parked in the shade, or will only be away for a few minutes. The inside of a car can become like an oven very quickly, and cause heat stroke or death.
If you have noticed that you’ve been outside for a while on a hot day and your dog does seem to be overheating, bring him inside immediately to the air conditioning, and check for some other symptoms, like: higher than normal heart rate, weakness, dizziness, vomiting, or diarrhea. If he has any of these signs, immediately call your veterinarian. You may also place cool, (again, not cold) damp cloths on his body while you wait to speak to your vet.
Another summer consideration is water! Many dogs’ favorite activity is swimming or paddling along with their human friends. Water play is a great way to burn energy and have fun while staying cool. Just remember that if the dog knows how to jump in the pool, he should be taught where the steps are, and how to climb out on his own. Also, be mindful that he isn’t drinking excessive amounts of pool or lake water, as this may make him sick. Giving a drink is a good thing, but too much of a good thing can be harmful as well. If you have a large or barrel-chested breed, always wait to allow water access rather than giving it immediately after running or playing. Letting him lay in the air conditioning on a cool tile floor while his coolant system works is a good idea. Water can be given in small amounts shortly after he appears to be cooling down.
If you’re ever unsure if your dog may have heat stroke, bloat, or if something just seems a little bit off, never hesitate to call your veterinarian for advice.
Both dogs and cats, especially light-colored ones, can be at risk for sunburn on their ears and noses. You can help prevent sunrelated skin cancers by applying some pet-safe sunblock anytime your pets will be out in the bright sun.
Let’s not forget about our kitties! Being hit by a car is one of the most common reasons for emergency vet visits for cats. Cats can also become dehydrated, and suffer from heat stroke. Make sure you have plenty of fresh water available for your kitties.
Cats are always much safer being indoors only, and we can prevent many of these hazards by keeping them content inside your home.
Thank you for reading, and have a safe and happy summer!