Ten “Cool” Tips That Will Help Keep Your Furry Loved Ones Safe This Summer
With the temperatures continuing to rise this summer, it is important for you to take note of some helpful tips that may help to keep your animals safe this summer.
- Cool Runnings
Just because the temperatures are rising, doesn’t mean that you can’t take Fido out for his daily walk! The best time to exercise your pet during the summer months are early mornings and/or late evenings. The reason behind avoiding mid-day exercise is due to the fact that our furry friends are unable to let off heat as easily as we do. Unfortunately, dogs and cats do not sweat and are only able to dispense excess heat by panting. When animals are exposed to extremely hot environments, their body’s natural mechanism for cooling down may be overwhelmed, therefore putting them at risk for heatstroke and even death.
- Feeling hot, hot, hot…Heatstroke is no joke
As mentioned before, heatstroke is a very serious condition in which animals become hyperthermic (overheated) and therefore suffer from an intense systemic inflammatory response. This inflammatory response may lead to multiple organ dysfunction and often times can cause death.
Signs of heatstroke include: heavy panting, racing heartbeat, excessive drooling, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, lack of coordination and collapse.
Animals that are predisposed to heatstroke are those that are old, young, overweight and/or are of a brachycephalic (flat faced) breed, such as: Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, etc. The reason we see an over representation of brachycephalic animals with heat stroke is due to the fact that their respiratory systems are compromised by a flat faced anatomy and are unfortunately unable to pant as efficiently.
If you believe that your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, it is essential that you get them to your veterinarian immediately. You may also consider trying to help cool down your pet by applying room temperature water to less-haired areas such as the armpits and abdomen. Be sure that you do not pour cold water on to your pet, as this may exacerbate signs of shock.
- Ouch, watch the paws!
Before taking your dog out for a walk, try placing the back of your hand on the asphalt or cement for 5 seconds. If you are unable to tolerate the heat for those 5 short seconds, please don’t expect your best friend to. Walking your dog on extremely hot cement, asphalt or sand can lead to serious burns on their paws. These types of injuries are extremely painful and require multiple visits to the vet, not to mention bandages and of course, THE CONE OF SHAME!
- Shady places, cool spaces
If you are unable to keep your pets inside with air conditioning during these hot summer months, make sure that you are providing adequate water and shade for them outside. Pets that are left outside can become dehydrated very quickly, and can even get sunburned from sitting in direct sunlight.
- No Parking Zone!
Never, ever leave your animals alone in a parked car! Research has shown that even with the windows down and the car parked in a shady spot, temperatures can reach over 130 degrees (and even higher here in south Florida!). These high temperatures can again lead to heatstroke and death. So, if you are planning to run some errands, make sure to take your animals home first!
- Don’t shave… Trim!
This may sound contradictory to some, however the best way to help cool your pet down is not by shaving their fur, but by having their long coats trimmed. The truth is that their fur acts as a protectant and helps to keep them from overheating or becoming sunburnt. Cats may also benefit from being brushed out as excessive undercoats can contribute to overheating.
- Scratches, stings and those kind of things
This is the time of year where insects are in full force! Make sure your dog has had a heartworm test in the last year and is currently on a monthly heartworm preventative. We also strongly recommend that both cats and dogs be on some form of flea/tick preventatives, whether that be oral or topical. Please visit your veterinarian for more helpful tips on the preventative that best fits your lifestyle!
- Be mindful of RUFF weather
With the summer season comes the infamous Florida thunderstorms! Thunderstorm anxiety is a real problem that should not go ignored! If your animal experiences extreme anxiety (pacing, crying, destructive behavior, etc.) during a thunderstorm, there are several measures you may want to try in order to alleviate some of your pet’s discomfort and stress. First, make sure your animal is brought inside during these storms. Keep them in a nice, secured room that eliminates the opportunity to see the actual lightening strike flashes. Also, try turning on the television or radio to buffer the scary sounds taking place outside. Finally, make sure that you remain calm as our pets often time feed off of our own anxiety. If your pet knows you are worried, he or she may pick up on this and become fearful as well.
It is not uncommon for some pets to require oral anti-anxiety medication to help them through these stressful circumstances. If you believe that your pet is an individual that may benefit from the use of anti-anxiety medications, please make an appointment with your veterinarian.
- No lifeguard on duty
Although the majority of dogs do know how to swim, it is important to note that not every dog is born with this instinct. Before entering the water for the first time, every dog should be closely monitored. Dogs should never be thrown in to the water and should be introduced in a shallow area first. When first starting off you may want to entice your dog into the refreshing water by giving treats or having them follow in their fellow doggy friends. You may also consider providing a floatation device, such as a life jacket. After a long day of fun, make sure to rinse your pup off of any residual chlorine or salt, as this may act as an irritant to their sensitive skin.
If you plan to bring your pets with you to the next family barbeque, make sure you keep an eye on the food they may be picking up after you. Many food items such as onions, grapes, raisons, chocolate and sugarless gum can be extremely life threatening to our canine friends and should be avoided at all costs. If you are worried that your pet has gotten in to any toxic “people food”, call your veterinarian or take them to the nearest emergency clinic as soon as possible.
We hope that you find these summer safety tips helpful and of course wish you the coolest summer of them all! Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns, we are always here to help you and your furry friends!
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Until next month…
– Dr. Victoria Tomasino