One of the most important things pet owners can do during the summer months is make sure their furry friends stay cool and hydrated as temperatures soar. Cabin Life reached out to an expert with the Humane Society of the United States for her favorite tips and tricks for keeping your family pet safe and comfortable.
For starters, understanding how pets regulate body heat is essential in keeping them safe. When humans overheat, around 3 million sweat glands create moisture that evaporates on our skin to lower the body’s temperature. On the other hand, pets do things a bit differently.
How cats and dogs regulate heat
“Dogs and cats have sweat glands in their foot pads—unlike throughout their bodies, like people—and so can’t expel body heat efficiently,” said Vicki Stevens, senior marketing communications manager for companion animal for the Humane Society of the United States. Instead, dogs and cats pant to bring cold air into contact with wet tissue inside their mouth and lungs. According to Rover.com, moisture then evaporates, dissipating heat through the body. Stevens reminds pet owners never leave their animals in a car.
Tips for keeping your dog safe and comfortable
Never leave your pets alone in a parked car. On a warm day, the temperature inside a car can soar to higher than 120 degrees, even with the windows partially open,” she said. “Your pet can suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke or suffocation very quickly in a parked car.”
More than a dozen states have laws prohibiting leaving pets unattended in cars in conditions that endanger their safety, and half have laws that allow public officials or citizens to rescue animals in hot cars under certain conditions.
Stevens also recommends limiting outside exercise on hot days to the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler, and adjusting the intensity and duration to reflect the temperature. Provide ample shade and water whenever your pet is outside or give them a cooling body wrap, vest or mat. You can also whip up a batch of DIY peanut butter “pupsicles” for your dog to both cool and scarf down.
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Don’t give your cat or dog a haircut
In general, most dogs and cats have insulating coats that work to keep an animal cool must like house insulation does. However, there are certain animals that may benefit from having a summertime haircut.
“Shaving might help cool dogs with very thick coats,” said Stevens. “Consult your veterinarian to see if shaving would benefit your dog or cat. If the veterinarian thinks shaving your cat’s coat would provide relief to the cat, have your cat shaved at the veterinarian’s office or by a professional groomer.”
Signs and symptoms of heatstroke
Heatstroke can happen quickly and go from moderate to worse in a very quick amount of time. This occurs when a dog’s body reaches a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or more, shutting down their ability to regulate heat. Stevens says dog owners should watch out for the following signs and symptoms: Heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, excessive drooling, bloody vomit, bloody diarrhea, nose bleed, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.
If you suspect your pet is having a complication from the heat, take them to the veterinarian immediately after first moving them into a shaded or air-conditioned area and applying ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest, or running cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
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Luck favors the prepared
Stevens reminds pet owners that preparing for power outages or having a disaster plan in place can protect both you and your animals during unexpected emergencies. You can view a full list for how to do so here.