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Summer offers a plethora of opportunities to have fun with our furry friends. With longer days come walks through the neighborhood, trips to the dog park, and more time soaking up the sunshine in your own backyard.
But it’s also important for you, as a pet owner, to keep your pet cool as the temperature outside rises. Remember, spending time in the sun is a different experience for humans than it is for animals. Unlike your dog or cat, you’re able to sweat—and you’re not wearing a permanent fur coat.
Overheating: Causes, Signs, and How to Avoid It
You likely already know you should never leave a pet alone in a parked car, even with the windows cracked: The temperature inside can rise more than 20 degrees in a matter of minutes, and that can be deadly. But did you realize that animals can also overheat and suffer heat stroke in other situations, such as being outside in the sun (especially if they’ve been running around) or even in an enclosed area such as a garage, shed, or doghouse?
The best way to prevent overheating and heat stroke is to avoid overly hot situations. Keep pets indoors during the heat of the day when possible, and make sure your air conditioning works properly so your pet stays cool and comfy. Even if you can handle a warmer house, consider your pets when you set your air conditioning.
Avoid strenuous activity outside or long periods of sun exposure, and make sure your pets always have access to cool, clean water. They may go through much more of it on hot days than they would otherwise.
If you believe your pet is overheating, stabilize him by covering him with cool (not ice cold) water. Once he seems to be stable, visit your veterinarian right away, or call the nearest emergency veterinary clinic for instructions.
Other Sunny Day Dangers
We walk around wearing shoes—at least most of the time—so unless we’re tiptoeing across a sizzling pool deck or sprinting from across a span of scorching sand, we’re generally pretty unaware of the temperature of the ground. That’s not the case for your dog. Walking dogs on hot surfaces, especially asphalt, can lead to discomfort or even serious toe pad burns.
Additionally, if your pet has short legs, that means his torso is closer to that sweltering surface, so even if his feet aren’t on fire, that surface can raise his body temperature tremendously.
Even though our pets (well, most of them, anyway) have lots of fur covering their bodies, that doesn’t mean they have full protection from UV rays, which puts them at risk for sunburn and even melanoma. It’s also worth noting that while you might think shaving your dog or cat’s long fur will keep them cool, it also reduces their natural sun defenses . For that reason, it’s best to keep haircuts to a trim, even during the summer.
You might assume all dogs can swim, but that’s not necessarily true. Bulldogs, for example have difficulty staying afloat due to their build. And any dog, even one who loves the water, can become fatigued quickly if he falls into a pool, panics, and can’t find the exit. Open water can be dangerous because dogs don’t understand waves, tide, and water traffic
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