As the spring has passed away and the heat of the summer arrives, temperatures start to rise and the humidity can be become unbearable. Even though the heat can be brutal, it tends drive families out of their homes looking for summer fun. They often take their pets with them. Dogs and cats alike release heat by panting, so the hotter the temperature, the more they pant in an attempt to balance their internal temperature. Exposure to excess heat from hanging out in soaring temperatures in a car, on the beach or at the park can make it impossible for them to move heat out of their bodies.
Dr. Hess from the Winter Park Veterinary Hospital in Winter Park, Florida took the time to answer a few common questions in regards to animals and the summer heat.
Can I just shave my dog’s hair/fur to keep him cool during the summer months?
No, fur acts as insulation against heat and cold. Dogs don’t sweat out of their body so shaving doesn’t allow for evaporative cooling. It’s also worthy to note that their coat is also a barrier of protection against skin scrapes and rashes from twigs, grass stickers and other things lurking in bushes or on the ground.
Should I put sunscreen on my dog’s skin?
Yes, on the nose and belly only. These areas have little to no fun/hair and can keep those areas from getting sun burned.
Sometimes I’m just running a quick errand, can I leave my dog in the car for just 15 minutes?
NEVER LOCK A DOG IN A CAR FOR ANY PERIOD OF TIME 15 minutes can be too long.
Can we roll the window down and let our dog hang her head out of the window to stay cool?
No, dogs can get foreign material in their eyes. There are also other factors. If a driver suddenly steps on the brakes while a dog has his head hanging out of a window, the dog’s neck can be broken from the impact that will result. Dogs can even be crushed from airbag deployment in the case of an accident. Many dogs will attempt to jump out of the vehicle. Dogs should be properly restrained in a vehicle with the air conditioner running.
Which dog breeds are more susceptible to heat exhaustion or heat stroke?
Brachycephalic breeds like pugs, bull dogs and French bull dogs. There are other dogs that are susceptible to the heat:
- older dogs
- sick dogs or those with a compromised immune system
- obese dogs
- puppies because they haven’t mastered thermal regulation
If my dog or cat gets over heated, how do I cool them down?
Use a tepid water bath, not cold, and then see a vet. Dogs can temporarily improve but have serious, fatal issues later from complications due to overheating. If you think your pet is suffering from heat stroke, see a vet immediately. It is thought by many to just pour ice water over a pet to cool them, but this can cause shock. Blood vessels vasoconstrict and reduce the ability for proper blood flow causing them to exert too much energy trying to cool themselves down.
SIGNS OF HEAT EXHAUSTION
- Dry or purple gums
- Rapid panting
- Red or droopy eyes
- Foaming or profuse salivating (drooling) at the mouth
- Extreme lethargy
LESS KNOWN TIPS ABOUT PETS AND HEAT
- Pay attention to your pet’s paws. Dogs, cats, mice and other animals have sweat glands on their feet. If they are leaving wet paw prints, they are sweating. They will need to stay hydrated.
- Smaller pets such as bunnies, hamsters, rats and other smaller furry friends should be kept in cages or enclosures that are kept off of the ground. This will keep it cooler and help with air circulation. They also need to be well groomed. Long-haired hamsters and bunnies can use a summer trim to help.
- Horses should be kept in the shade and protected from flies. They also need to keep their feet hydrated and monitor their muzzle so it doesn’t burn them.
- Shorten dog walks during the hot summer months. That afternoon jog can cause problems. They can get plenty of exercise in the house without the heat.
If you are going to help your pets beat the dog days of summer, take preventative measures so your pets are fully protected.