As temperatures rise, humans have a relatively easy time keeping themselves cool during the dry and hot season. However, the same is not true for our pets.
To start with, most of the furry friends many of us have in our homes were not even originally intended to live in tropical climates. The good news is there are steps we can take to make sure they remain cool and safe for rest of season.
1. Get to know your pet. It doesn’t get more basic than this. A lot of pet owners today still make the mistake of not learning about the quirks that come along with the kind of pet they are adopting. To make things simple for everyone, different breeds have different needs. This is especially true during the summer.
Let’s take cats and dogs as an example. Much like cats, dogs dissipate heat by panting. For the most part, this technique allows them to get by when exposed to high levels of temperature. However, there are certain breeds, like bulldogs, pugs, Pekingese, Boston terriers, and Persian cats that have compromised upper airways that give them more difficulty removing heat in their bodies through panting. If you have a pet you love and don’t know what its special needs are, then it’s about time that you opened your browser and start learning more about it and its special needs.
2. Making the cut. This one’s a no-brainer. If you own a pet that’s really on the furry side―like a Pomeranian or a Shih Tzu―chances are you’ll need to get him groomed to keep him cool. Don’t shave your pet (and don’t do it yourself!) though. The layers of dogs’ coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Go to a professional groomer and be sure to stay as your pet gets the treatment. Brushing cats more often than usual can keep them from getting sick due to excessive heat.
3. Hydrate. This is more crucial for pets during the hot season. Panting is effective in allowing animals to cool down because it helps evaporate fluids from the respiratory tract. But not all animals can pant. You can help replace these fluids and prevent dehydration by leaving out water or water alternatives that your pets can access anytime. Water alternatives are especially great for pets since they replenish electrolytes and taste great.
4. Timing is everything…at least when spending time outdoors. If your pet needs walking, save your daily walks for early in the morning or in the evening once the sun has set. Do this and you’ll actually make the activity pleasant for your pet as he’ll have an easier time breathing and the ground will be cooler on the pads of his paws.
5. Be sensitive. If going outdoors during the day can’t be helped, be sure to pay attention to the needs of your pet. Find him a shady place he can rest. Remember that your pet does not wear shoes. He has nothing protecting his paws from scorching asphalt or other hot street surfaces.
6. Bath time. Be careful; you don’t bathe your pet every day, not even during summer. Doing so can either make them sick or cause their skin to dry. A quick weekly shower for pets that bathe (like dogs and a few cats) is enough to keep their coats clean and cool. Use a moisturizing or mild shampoo so that you don’t strip away too much moisture from their skin.
7. Read the signs. As pet owners, we can do everything we can to keep our pets cool. However, there will always be unforeseen circumstances that can cause them to overheat. If this happens, the best weapon you can use to keep your pet safe is knowledge. Be ready to read the signs. Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor, or even collapsing. They can sometimes also include seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.
8. Out of the car and into the house. Never, ever leave your pets alone inside a car regardless of the circumstances. The temperature inside your car can quickly climb to 140 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. If you’re going somewhere to beat the heat and you know there’s a chance that that establishment does not allow pets, then it’s better that you just leave yours at home where they can enjoy the cool tiled floor.
9. Party animal. Taking your pet with you to attend a beach barbecue? Be sure to never forget to pay attention to him. Pets can often times wander off during parties. Especially if the event is held during the day, your pet can end up in some serious trouble if not taken care of. In addition, you might want to bring food and water for him or at least watch which items he gets access to. Remember that most things served during parties can be poisonous for pets. Keep them away from alcoholic beverages as these can lead to intoxication or cause depression and even a coma. Also, avoid chocolates, raisins, grapes, onions, and products with xylitol.
Summer can be fun for everyone if proper care and caution is taken. Just always remember that your pets cannot take care of themselves. They need you to look after them, especially during days when temperatures are scorching. If you can manage it, bring them inside air conditioned rooms, especially during the afternoon. Follow these simple steps and you and your pet are sure to have a great time with one another.
This story appeared in Animal Scene’s March 2015 issue.