As the warm weather arrives, pet owners are reminded to keep some summer safety tips in mind as we tend to spend more time outdoors with our furry housemates. Long walks, a game of fetch or just relaxing by the pool are all activities we look forward to as summer approaches. However, these summer time activities with our loyal companions can lead to pet emergencies such as heat stroke, sunburn, foot pad burns, and drowning. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of these emergencies and learning how to treat, and better yet prevent them, is key when protecting our cats and dogs.
Exposure to extreme heat can cause heat stroke and is considered a medical emergency, just as it is in humans. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and can cause organ failure, brain damage, seizures, blindness and even death. The signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs and cats include:
- Thick saliva
- Rapid panting
- Red or pale gums
- Elevated body temperature above 40 degrees Celsius
Certain breeds are more susceptible to heat stroke such as dogs and cats with shorter snouts like pugs, bulldogs, boxers, shih-tzus and Persian cats. Pets with medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, obesity, older pets, and breathing issues are also more susceptible.
If you suspect your pet has sunstroke, take your pet to a cool place immediately. Provide cool drinking water in small amounts, wet your pet with cool water (be sure the water is not too cold), place towels soaked with cool water between the back legs and armpits of your pet. Call an emergency veterinarian immediately.
When dogs and cats are exposed to sun, they can also suffer from sunburn. Pets with light coloured noses, thin, short or missing fur burn faster. Certain areas in every dog that are especially susceptible to being burned by the sun include the stomach, inside of the legs, groin, tips of ears and snout. While on the topic of burns, asphalt, on a hot sunny day can cause burns on the foot pads of dogs and cats. Placing cool, wet towels on the sunburned area or burned foot pads may offer some relief to your pet. If you suspect sunburn or burned foot pads, contact your veterinarian immediately.
In the summer months, brush your cat more often and give your dog a summer haircut but not too short as the coat helps to protect your dog from sunburn and in some cases, overheating. Use especially formulated sunscreen for pets on areas of light skin, tips of ears, skin around the lips, and nose bridge. When experiencing extreme heat, keep pets indoors in the air-conditioning, provide access to cool water, keep walks to a minimum, and never leave pets in a parked car.
It only takes an outside temperature of around 21 degrees Celsius for the temperature inside of a car, sitting in sunlight, to reach 50 degrees Celsius or higher. Pets have more difficulty regulating their body temperature than humans. This is because they are unable to sweat through their bodies. Instead they sweat through their foot pads. This only leaves panting as an effective means of temperature regulation, which can be quickly overwhelmed when the temperature begins to quickly increase in a hot car.
Lastly, do not assume all dogs are good swimmers. Some breeds seem to innately know how to swim while others have no swimming capabilities. Pets, just like children, should not be left unsupervised around pools and should be introduced slowly to water. Flotation devices for pets can be purchased and the use of these devices are encouraged, especially if on boats.
Putting these safety tips in place will contribute to a happy, healthy and safe summer for your pets!