10 Cool Tips: Keep Your Pet Safe This Summer

Man and his dog sitting in sunshine

It's summer! Yay, the warm weather is here and it's time for the beach and great outdoors.

Summer is also a great time to take your pet with you and enjoy the sunshine together. But higher temperatures can mean higher risks for our furry companions. There are dangers of ticks, increased skin and ear infections and the possibility of overheating or even heat stroke, so be extra careful with your pet during this season.

So, to make sure you enjoy summer with your pet, here are ten tips to keep them safe in the heat.

1. Provide plenty of water and shade

    Just like us, your dogs and cats need more water when they get hot. If water is not available, dehydration can quickly happen during summer. So, ensure your pet always has access to fresh, clean water inside the house and bring a water bottle for them when going outside.

    Make sure they have shady areas to rest during a walk or while outside in the garden.

    2. Know the signs of heat stress

    A dog's average temperature is  37.8° to 37.4°C, while an average temperature in cats ranges from 38.0º to 39.2ºC. Temperatures higher than that means your pet is at risk of overheating. 

    Particular dogs are at higher risk than others of heatstroke; such as the very active, obese, those of large (>15 kg) body weight and certain breeds (e.g., Labrador retrievers and short nose breeds, like pugs).

    Signs of possible overheating are:

    • Heavy panting
    • Dry or bright red gums
    • Thick drool
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhoea
    • Wobbly legs

    If your pet shows any of these worrying signs, move them to a cool place and get them to the vet immediately.

    3. Never leave your pet in the car

    Many pets love riding in cars. However, being stuck in a hot car in a car park is not part of the fun. On a sunny 20o day, temperatures inside a closed vehicle can double in under ten minutes, and increase up to 60 oC within 30 minutes.

    It can take less than 10 minutes for pets to develop heatstroke inside the hot car.

    Leaving a pet locked in a car and causing it distress can cost an owner up to $50,000 or a charge of animal cruelty by police or the RSPCA.

     So, it's best to take your pet with you or leave them in at home in a cool, shady place with plenty of water.

    4. Use pet sunscreen, if needed

    Pets get sunburns too, and while it may not necessarily lead to skin cancer, it's best to avoid sunburn happening. 

    Pets with white or light-coloured fur like to sun-bake and so tend to be predisposed to skin cancer. Particular at-risk areas are the nose, the ear tips, belly and around their eyelids and lips. So, limit their time in the bright sunshine during peak UV hours. 

    If this is not possible, a sunscreen may help. Only use sunscreens made specifically for pets, as ingredients in human sunscreens can be toxic to animals. Your vet can advise on a product suitable for your pet.

    5. Don't shave your pet unless advised by your vet

      Close clipping of your dog or cat for the summer may sound like a way to keep them cool, but a pet's coat is designed to keep it cool in summer and warm in the winter. Keep to your pet's regular grooming schedule to make sure their coat is in the best possible condition, regardless of the season.

      6. Alter your walking hours

        Walk and exercise your cat or dog in the cooler daylight hours, rather than in the midday heat. If it is hot, take rest breaks under a shady tree and have water with you at all times.

        7. Keep your pet's paws cool

          Pets regulate their body temperature from the paws upwards. Avoid walking them on hot surfaces like cement and asphalt. Not only can it burn feet, but it can also increase body temperature and lead to overheating. If walking your dog in the cooler hours is not possible, dog shoes can be an excellent way to protect precious paws. 

          Spraying water under the paws and stomach will also help pets cool down. A wet towel can also be useful to rub their paws and belly.

          8. Keep them parasite-free

            Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other parasites love the warm weather and humidity in summer. As they can carry a range of diseases, your pet's health can be at risk. Prevention is better than cure, so ask your vet for the best parasite control medication for your pet.

            While parasite medication is excellent, it's not 100% fool-proof, especially when it comes to ticks. Paralysis ticks can be deadly if not found or treated. So be vigilant, check your pet daily for ticks by brushing or running your hands through their coat. If you find a tick, remove it as quickly as possible, keep in for identification and consult a vet.

            9. Consider a life vest

              Just like us, many dogs love cooling off in water, pool, lake, or ocean. But not all dogs swim well and so are at risk of drowning, especially if they get tired. Getting out of a backyard pool could be an issue as can strong currents and rips in the ocean.

              So, when you take your dog swimming, kayaking or for other water sports, be sure it wears a bright-coloured life jacket, so they stay afloat in case of an accident. Always keep an eye on your dog when around water.

              10. Keep your pets away from fireworks

                Summer is a brilliant time for barbecues, picnics and overall outdoor celebrations. While we all enjoy fireworks on New Year's Eve, our pets can panic and may run away. 

                So keep your pet indoors and reassured if fireworks are going off nearby. A crate or pen inside could help contain and soothe them if it's a familiar area. Make sure they have a labelled, reflective collar with their name and your contact details in case they do escape.

                Most of all, have a safe and enjoyable summer with your pets!

                 10 tips for a safe summer with your pet

                References

                1. Bruchim Y, Horowitz M, Aroch I. Pathophysiology of heatstroke in dogs - revisited. Temperature (Austin). 2017 Oct 9;4(4):356-370. doi: 10.1080/23328940.2017.1367457. PMID: 29435477; PMCID: PMC5800390.

                2. Doyalson Animal Hospital, Doyalson, NSW. 

                Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash

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