Prepare for “The Dog Days” of Summer
Dr. Christina Frick, D.V.M.
All animals deserve special care during the hot summer heat. Here are some reminder tips for summer pet care. On a warm 80 degree day, it only takes 10 minutes for the temperature inside the car to reach 120 degrees. Never leave pets in a car on a hot day. Temperatures can rise quickly, causing heat stroke and death.
Any pet can suffer from heat stress, however particularly susceptible are: very young and older pets, pets with a previous history of heat stress, short-nosed breeds, overweight pets, and pets with cardiovascular or respiratory disorders. Some signs of HEAT STRESS are profuse panting and salivation, staring or an anxious expression, failure to respond to command, warm dry skin, high fever, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, muscular weakness or collapse. If your pet has heat stress, try to reduce his temperature by placing in a quiet, cool environment or GRADUALLY immersing your pet in cool water, spraying him with cool water or applying ice packs or cool water-soaked towels to their body, esp. head and neck. THEN take your pet to the VETERINARIAN IMMEDIATELY.
A dog walking on very hot sand or asphalt can burn the pads of its feet. This may result in pain and damage to his or her paws. Pickup truck beds are another hazard to be considered. They become extremely hot and can burn a pet’s feet very quickly. Paw protectors are available at pet retail or hunting stores. Be sure to examine your pet’s paws frequently to make sure they are not cracked or lacerated. Be sure to notice the ground in hot weather, bend down and touch it. Can you walk on it safely in bare feet? If not, then it is too hot for dog as well. Switch to grassy area for walk times or when it cools down at night or early morning.
Keep clean, fresh water in a bowl or container that the animal cannot tip over. Secure water dishes or hang a bucket higher to avoid tipping if your pet knocks all containers over!! Putting ice cubes in a pet’s water bowl provides a nice treat and cold water during the hot part of the day. A common rule of thumb for daily water intake is an ounce per pound of body weight, but during summer that can increase dramatically. If you think your pet is dehydrated, pinch their skin to see how long it takes to return to normal. The skin of a dehydrated animal will slowly normalize. The skin of a severely dehydrated animal will remain pinched. The BEST water solution for about any dog is to provide a swimming pool. It will not be tipped over, can be a water source and a nice place to cool off. A plastic kids pool or a small stock tank commonly used for hogs, sheep and goats will work well for pets. If you see green in the tank, then its time to wash out the containers well. This applies to all livestock tanks also.
Provide shade from 10 AM to 7 PM for any pet or livestock. Typically, that means shade in the southwest corner of the pen. A tree will do fine or use a tarp. Privacy fences will offer plenty of shade, but chain link fence should have an area covered with a tarp. Light-Colored pets and those with fair skin, sparse fur or animals that have been sheared (including show lambs, pigs, cattle and horses) are most likely to get a sunburn, but any pet can burn on the ears, nose, belly, and bottom of paws. Put nontoxic pet sunscreen on these parts when in the sun. Dr. Frick carries a product for dog, cats and horses that contains sunscreen and insecticide (to repel those pesky flies, mosquitos and gnats that cause problems for many pets).
Provide adequate ventilation and air circulation when pets are kept in kennels or pens. Always check garages, closed-up buildings or sheds that have no air-conditioning before exiting. There may be animals that get locked in and would die from heat stroke.
Exercise and feed in the cooler hours of the day. Offer food to outdoor dogs between 9 PM and 8 AM. But you can take them swimming any time of the day!!!
Be sure there is no more winter coat left on your pet. The undercoat, the short coarse hair that offers insulation, should have been coming out in full force the last 2-3 months. But for many dogs, that undercoat needs help coming out. Brush nightly. Another option for longer hair pets is to have them Summer Sheared by a vet or a groomer. Frick Vet Services offers summer shears for cats and dogs.
Unusual swelling or soreness may be signs of a bite or sting. Consult your vet immediately. Help keep your pet safe from hazardous plant consumption during the summer months when plants and flowers are abundant. There are many toxic plants, pesticides, drugs, medications, metals, cleaning products and poisonous substances to animals. Contact your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has been poisoned.
Remember to continue on heartworm, flea and tick preventatives throughout the summer.
These simple tips can help keep your pet healthy and safe for the summer.