Imagine going outside on a hot day. Now think about doing it while you’re wearing a heavy fur coat. When the temperatures heat up, remember that our furry and feathered friends need extra special care.
Cool Cats (and Dogs)
“It doesn’t have to be 100 degrees outside for hot weather to be deadly,” says Humane Society of Missouri veterinarian Dr. Matt Shivelbine. “We actually see more problems when it’s 80 or 90 degrees. When it cools down after a heat wave, people want to go out with their dogs, but even if it doesn’t feel so bad for a human, it’s very hot for dogs.” He recommends walking early in the morning, when temperatures are much cooler.
Laura Lawrence, owner of The Well Behaved Pet, points out that sunny days can make pavement dangerously hot for pets, as well. “Most dogs do not have the buildup on their paws that they would if they were running in the wild; their feet are very sensitive,” she says. “That can actually burn their feet.” She adds that when you get back from the walk, don’t let Fido go crazy drinking water—that can lead to bloating and medical problems, especially for deep-chested dogs like dachshunds and greyhounds. “Before I let them get a drink, I spritz their tongue and teeth, so their mouth doesn’t feel like cotton, and then let them get a drink.”
Cool treats like watermelon or cantaloupe can help keep your dog cool, too, Lawrence says. “You can even make a little popsicle!” She adds that while a fan can help, it’s not as effective for pets because they don’t sweat. To get the full effect, wet down their fur so that the water evaporates in the cool air. Some dogs also can benefit by getting their hair trimmed short, but ask your vet if that’s best for your particular breed, Shivelbine notes.
Lynne Parriott, of Pattering Paws, adds that dogs with short snouts such as pugs or bulldogs can hyperventilate easily because of their narrow airway. She recommends no more than 10 minutes outside for pets when the temperature is more than 88 degrees. “When I’m out watering, I really have to watch it because they want to be with me,” she says. “Dogs do not know their own limitations. Cats are much better, but dogs will stay out there.”
Shivelbine adds that it’s never OK to leave a dog inside the car when the temperature is more than 70 degrees—not even for a short trip into the store. And if your dog is showing signs of heat exhaustion, such as extreme panting, lethargy or vomiting, bring them inside to the air conditioning, put cool water on their feet and call your vet or an emergency clinic immediately.
Fleas and Ticks, Oh My!
This year’s mild winter means that fleas and ticks are worse than usual. “I’ve had many patients come in who have never had fleas, but this year, they do,” Shivelbine says. If you’re already using a good preventative and it doesn’t seem to be effective, it’s helpful to switch brands, Lawrence adds. For an extra layer of protection, organic sprays are available for pets’ feet. If you do find a tick embedded on your pet, cover it with a cotton ball that’s soaked in rubbing alcohol to loosen its hold. Then take a pair of tweezers and pull straight up.
Catch a Wave
If you think your dog might benefit from a dip in the pool, make sure they’re gradually introduced to swimming, Lawrence says. “Don’t just throw them in and assume all animals swim—they don’t. And if they’re going under or getting too much water, get them out and watch for any strange reaction.” Water flotation vests are available for dogs as well, Shivelbine says. “Make sure there’s cool water to drink, not just to swim in,” he adds. “A lot of dogs love to swim and they can get their heart rate up, and then get overheated and exhausted.” And when the swimming is done, flush out the ears with an ear cleanser to prevent infections.
Editor’s Note: Thanks to the students of Reed Elementary, who suggested the idea for this article.