We’ve all seen the pictures of a dog wearing sunglasses in the summer sun. Hilarious, right? While that image may be amusing, the reality of summertime heat and sunshine is serious for our dogs and cats, which depend on us to keep them protected.
For example, did you know dogs and cats can get sunburned? Or that short-nosed dog breeds have more trouble cooling down through panting? Or that shaving your dog’s fur coat may be more harmful than not? Here are a few tips to consider to keep your pet comfortable in the summer heat.
- Sunburn. Just like people, animals need sun protection on their sensitive areas such as ear tips, noses and other areas exposed to sunlight. Pets with pink skin or light-colored coats can be vulnerable. Staffordshire terriers, boxers, bull terriers, German shorthaired pointers and pit bulls are among the breeds prone to sunburn, as well as cats with white ears, eyelids and noses. Apply pet-friendly sunscreen — not zinc oxide-based treatments, which are toxic — about half an hour before exposure.
- Panting is cooling. It’s well known that dogs and cats don’t sweat. They eliminate heat through their respiration. Short-nosed dog such as pugs and bulldogs tend to be more vulnerable to heat stroke. All that panting means your dog really needs to stay extra hydrated in warm weather. Concerned your pet might be overheating? Heat stroke signs include excessive or exaggerated panting, lethargy, weakness, drooling, high fever, dark red gums, rapid heartbeat, unresponsiveness to surroundings and vomiting.
- Cars are hot boxes. A summer rarely passes without a story about a pet that dies inside a locked car. A Stanford University study showed that regardless of outside temperature, the temperature inside a car can rise 40 degrees in an hour. Don’t leave your pet in the car, even for a few minutes.
- Avoid hot surfaces. Hot sidewalks, beaches and other surfaces can severely injure your pet’s paw pads. You might be surprised how often vets diagnose this injury — and the pet parents don’t believe it. Dogs love to hang around with you and where you lead, they will follow, so the rule of thumb is simple: If the surface is too hot for you to handle barefoot, it’s too hot for your dog.
- No shaving. Believe it or not, your pet’s coat insulates him from the heat, so shaving his fur might not be the best strategy. In fact, it may have the opposite effect, so experts say to avoid shaving fur. But trimming a longhaired dog’s long fur, particularly the fur that hangs around his legs, is acceptable. Vets suggest that owners should brush their dogs and cats more often in the summertime as well, which can thin out the thick coat and get rid of fur that your pet is shedding.
- Take it easy. Avoid exercise during the hottest parts of the day, and be vigilant about finding shade to rest when the time comes.
Tips to Take Away
- Don’t overdo the activity in the heat of the day.
- Make sure your pets have plenty of water to drink.
- Don’t shave their fur. It’s an insulator.
- Pets can get sunburned, too. Use pet-friendly sunscreen to protect them.