As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, there are new dangers our pets face that all pet owners should be aware of. We have a few tips to keep your pets safe and cool this summer!
Never, ever, EVER leave your pet in a hot car. It can take mere minutes for a pet to develop and succumb to heat stroke in a car. Most people don’t realize how hot it gets in parked cars. On a 25C degree day, temperatures in a car can reach 32C in the shade and top 71C if parked directly in the sun! Driving around, parking, and leaving your pet in the car for “just a minute” can be deadly. Cars heat up fast — even with the windows cracked open. Leave your pet at home on warm days. If you see a pet in a car on a warm day, please take action and call the police or fire department – time is critical.
Dr. Ernie Ward made this great educational video, wanting to see for himself how hot a parked car gets in a matter of minutes.
Remember, dogs can’t sweat. They cool off by panting, so an overheated dog will drool excessively. It will become lethargic, its eyes will be bloodshot, and it may appear a little pale. If you lift its skin, it will take longer than usual for the skin to fall back into place. Signs of heat stroke include (but are not limited to): body temperatures of 40-43C, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, coma, and even death. Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs), large heavy-coated breeds, and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems have a harder time cooling themselves and are more at risk for heat stroke.
If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek veterinary attention immediately! Use cool water, not ice water, to cool down your pet. Very cold water will cause constriction of the blood vessels and impede cooling. Do not aid cooling below 39.4C – some animals can actually get hypothermic (too cold). Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian. Just because your animal is cooled and “appears” okay, do NOT assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and an examination by a veterinarian is needed to assess this.
Keep your dog hydrated!
Different dogs have different needs when battling the heat. Keep in mind that darker coats absorb more heat than lighter coats. Also, overweight dogs are at higher risk for dehydration. Carry a bottle of water when going on a walk with your dog. Better yet have your dog carry it for you in a backpack or a vest! The water in the bottles will keep the dog cooler and also give the dog a sense of purpose.
Find innovative ways to cool your dog. Don’t have air conditioning? No problem! Find a spot in the shade and set up a kiddie pool. Lay down a wet towel for your dog to lie on. Or simply set up a fan in front of a pan of ice.
Dogs can get a sunburn just like people. White, light-coloured and thin coated dogs are more at risk for burning. To prevent sunburn, apply a waterproof sunscreen formulated for babies or pets. Be sure to cover the tips of your dog’s ears and nose, the skin around its mouth, and its back.
Hot pavement and surfaces:
Dog’s feet and pads are tough, right? Most people are aware that foot pads can be injured by stepping on something sharp, but what about something hot? Dangerously hot pavement and metal surfaces are hard to avoid in the heat of summer. Walking or running on hard pavement is tough on feet, too. Pavement, metal or tar-coated asphalt get extremely hot in the summer sun. We wear protective footwear. It can be harder to remember summer heat and our dog’s feet. Unlike the obvious wounds such as lacerations, foot infections (fungal, bacterial), or foreign bodies (such as cheat grass), burned pads may not be apparent to the eye, at least initially. Signs of burned pads can include: limping or refusing to walk, licking or chewing at the feet, pads darker in colour, missing part of pad, and blisters.
Don’t leave your dog unsupervised around water, as not all dogs are good swimmers. Invest in a life vest for your dog! It’s easy for your pup to develop a cramp, become exhausted too far from shore, or get overwhelmed by tides in rivers and oceans. All vests should have reflective stripes to help with visibility, quick release buckles, and a large nylon handle on the top of the vest to make it easier to snatch your dog out of the water. Have your dog wear the vest at home to ensure that it not only fits correctly but to also give your dog time to get used to it. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt, as well as any bacteria or dirt they might pick up. Remove wet collars to prevent hot spots.
Thunderstorms and Fireworks:
As many pet lovers know, fireworks and thunder storms can cause a great deal of stress for some animals. Fear of loud sounds – fireworks, thunder, gunshot – are called noise phobias. For a pet affected by loud noises, this is a terrifying and uncomfortable time; both for the pet and the people. Your pet cannot control their reaction to loud noises, and may run away or severely injury themselves trying to “escape” the loud noise. Leave your pet at home during a fireworks show. Provide a safe go-to spot for your pet to relax or hide (ie. a crate). Lock all windows and doors to prevent escape attempts, and close curtains and blinds to block out flashing lights. Try counteracting the noise with music or the TV. You can also try anxiety supplements or storm shirt (ie. Thundershirt), this acts as a safety blanket for the pet and calms them down. Contact our hospital for more information on anxiety supplements. Make sure your pet has up to date identification, such as a collar tag, tattoo, or microchip, should they find a way to escape outside.
Pests and Parasites:
Pests that can be dangerous to your pets are bees, spiders, snakes etc. Pets are vulnerable to their stings and bites, and may cause a bad allergic reaction (swelling in the face/muzzle/nose, hives all over the body). If you are doing outdoor activities with your dog (ie. hiking, camping, etc) be sure to bring Benadryl with you. Benadryl is safe for your pet and should be given right after a sting (please phone our hospital to get the correct dosing for your pet). Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort and serious illness in pets and even people. Summer time and more time spent outside increases your pet’s exposure to external parasites. Fleas and ticks are easily prevented from bothering your pet through the use of safe, easy to administer, effective products. We have many products available and would be happy to help, answer any questions, and also apply products on site.
Summer means BBQ season and certain human food such a corn on the cob and bones pose a risk to our pets. Food covered in grease or other food leftovers, aluminium foil, plastic wrap, matches and kebab skewers can be very dangerous if your pet gets hold of them
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful! We wish you and your pets a healthy and happy summer!