Your pets are literally wearing fur coats in 80-degree weather, which makes it all too easy to get overheated. Here’s how to help them stay safe this summer.
Tips & tricks
- Provide access to water and shade. It’s critical that your pet has the ability take a break from the sun of her own accord. If she joins you outdoors and doesn’t have access to clean water, bring a collapsible dish and make water stops regularly.
- A humid day can sometimes be more dangerous than a hotter, dry day because the humidity interferes with your pup’s main cooling strategy: panting. Moisture in the air slows down the evaporation process, “making the panting a lot less efficient,” says Jennifer Good, DVM, clinical assistant professor of small animal emergency and critical care at University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.
- If you and your pup enjoy lengthy walks or runs, aim to get outside in the early morning and evening. Keep the activity level low during the afternoon, and bring her indoors for the hottest parts of the day.
- Brush your pets regularly to help shed their thick winter undercoat, or bring them to a groomer. “There’s a myth that the Nordic breeds [like Siberian huskies and Samoyeds] regulate better with their full coats. The temperature on the outside of the fur might be cooler, but next to their skin it’s hot,” says Jessica Romine, DVM, an internal medicine specialist at BluePearl Pet Hospital in Southfield, Michigan. If you have a longhaired cat that becomes more lethargic in the summer, Dr. Romine suggests a “lion cut” that keeps the fur on the face, feet, and tail but trims it short everywhere else. “A lot of cats are happier and more active [with a cut],” she says.
How they cool down
Dogs and cats primarily sweat through their paws, which is not a terribly effective cooling method. In the heat, dogs regulate their body temperatures by panting. “Cats are not very adept at dissipating heat because, from an evolutionary point of view, it wasn’t necessary for their lifestyle,” says Dr. Romine. Cats will lick their fur to cool down; find a cool surface to lie on (like a tile floor); or, if hot enough, pant.
Signs of heatstroke
Loud, heavy panting is going to be the first sign your dog is becoming too hot. If you notice this, try to bring her indoors and check her temperature (ear thermometers are noninvasive yet reliable). “A normal temperature is anywhere from 100°F to about 102.5°F. If your dog’s temp is 104°F and they’re just lying there, that’s a problem,” says Dr. Good. Red or very pale gums or a bright red tongue are also signs of overheating. Soak a towel in cool water and press it on their paws and ears, or run water from a hose over the body. Once pets are wet, Dr. Good recommends putting them in front of a fan: The evaporation process will cool them faster. “We don’t recommend ice because that’s going to make the blood vessels in their skin contract, which will push the heat further into their bodies,” says Dr. Romine. Provide your dog with small amounts of water to drink, and bring her to a veterinarian if the symptoms don’t subside.
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