Keep them rested, hydrated and out of the car
Let’s be frank: Hot dogs are not cool.
All kidding aside (this is actually deadly serious), a late spring heat wave is a good time to review a few hot-weather guidelines for animals that pet parents can follow so dogs and cats don’t fall prey to the more sinister side of summer.
- Know your breed. Some dog breeds are more susceptible to heat stress than others. Pugs and other flat-faced breeds have trouble panting efficiently, and older, overweight or long-haired dogs are at risk of overheating more quickly than their leaner, younger and short-haired canine pals. A buzz cut might seem like a good idea, but it increases a dog’s risk of sunburn if he spends a lot of time outdoors. You can, however, apply sunscreen to your dog. It’s also important that any dog kept outside for extended periods have adequate and easily accessible shade and a lot of water.
- Keep the water coming. Dogs pant and salivate to keep cool and doing so effectively requires adequate hydration. Even during normal conditions, dogs need an ounce of water per pound of body weight every day. During an extended heat wave, they need even more. Make sure your dogs and cats have a supply of fresh water all day, every day. Drinkwell® fountains can help prevent pet dehydration. Several models hold multiple gallons and recirculate water to keep it fresh and entice your pets to drink more. Check your dog’s nose regularly – if it’s warm and dry, he might be dehydrated or not far from it. Another way to gauge hydration levels is to gently grab a flap of skin on his back and lift it. If it doesn’t fall back into place immediately, your friend may be dehydrated. Remember – cats typically don’t drink enough water regardless the temperature, so it’s doubly important to make sure your kitties have unlimited access to fresh water during a heat wave.
- Protect your precious cargo. Don’t ever leave an unattended cat or dog in a car on a hot day. When the outside temperature hits 85, the interior of your car could heat to an oven-like 120 degrees within 30 minutes. It’s not only inhumane and potentially deadly, in some states it’s illegal to leave an animal in a car on a hot day. Even if outside temperatures are only in the upper 60s, the interior temperature of a vehicle can quickly reach 90 degrees. Cracking the windows doesn’t help, nor does parking in the shade. The sun moves, and speaking of cracked windows, there’s also a good chance a Good Samaritan might bust out one of your windows to free your dog. A better approach might be to try to locate the car owner or call 911 if you encounter such a situation. On especially hot days, consider leaving your pawed pal at home.
Blacktop burns. If you want to take your friend for a visit to a farmers market or street festival, consider how hot the asphalt may be. If it’s in the upper 80s, exposed surface temperatures could reach well into the 140-degree range. The bottom of pups’ feet is similar to ours, and many of us have done the barefoot hot-sand dance at the beach or the asphalt skip on a summer day. If you can’t walk on something comfortably because it’s too hot, your dog shouldn’t either. It can lead to contact burns on the dog's paws. A good way to determine whether your dog can handle the surface heat is to hold your hand on the surface for about 10 seconds. If not, avoid the blacktop blues and take that hot dog to your cool home and play with some PetSafe® interactive toys both of you can enjoy.
- Play nice. Some dogs will run themselves ragged during playtime. This is just plain dangerous for animals when it’s hot outside. Limit outdoor fun to early mornings or evenings and keep an eye out for signs of heat stroke in your dog. Symptoms include heavy panting or breathing difficulties, and ultimately, marked exhaustion or even collapse. If you are limited to playtime during the heat of the day, keep plenty of water on hand and maybe even drop a few ice cubes in your friend’s water dish. A freezable dog treat holder like the PetSafe® Chilly Penguin could provide some relief, too. Though cats can be crafty when it comes to staying cool and seeking shade, cats are susceptible to heat stroke, too. If you think your dog or cat has suffered heat stroke or heat exhaustion, get them to a cool place immediately, soak them with cool water, tempt them to drink as much water as they can, and contact a veterinarian. Avoid drastic overcooling to treat overheating.
These are simple steps pet parents can take to protect their precious pups this summer. Their unlimited love should be met with unlimited devotion to their health and safety. If you are uncertain whether it’s too hot for your pet to safely cavort in the outdoors, simply enjoy your pet’s company – and perhaps your favorite cool drink – out of the sun in the shade of your porch watching the heat shimmer from the street.