Keeping your pets safe in summer is particularly important here in Australia because of how hot it can get. We all know how to keep ourselves sun-safe, but how do we keep our furry friends safe too?
Despite it being a somewhat wet summer, there is still going to be some scorchers that can pose a real threat to our pets.
Luckily Pet Circle Vet, Dr Carla Paszkowski BVSc, has shared her tips to help avoid your pet from overheating and getting heatstroke. Even from suffering from a sunburn.
Get to know these tips so you can make sure that your pets stay safe this summer season.
1. Ensure access to shade and shelter
According to Dr Carla, your pet will moderate its own temperature if it’s given access to cooler areas like shady patches.
If your pet stays outdoors, make sure they have a shade shelter or a kennel to allow them to cool down on hot days.
Having a pet access door is also a great way to let your pet go in and out as they please.
For indoor-only pets? Dr Carla recommends making sure your home is well-aerated during the day if your pet is left home alone.
2. Hydration, hydration, hydration!
Probably one of the most important ways to keep your pets safe in summer is to make sure they stay hydrated.
Whilst excessively high temperatures can do a lot of harm, Dr Carla says that most heatstroke symptoms are actually related to severe dehydration.
An easy way you can keep your pet hydrated is to encourage them to drink with a water fountain as they are naturally attracted to running water.
Another way is to try freezing a block of ice with some treats or minced meat inside. Make your own ‘doggy ice block’.
3. Walk at dusk or twilight
The easiest way to overheat your pet is to take it on walks in the middle of the day when temperatures are at their peak.
To avoid this, try walking them early in the morning or later in the afternoon or evening.
Dr Carla says this is especially important for brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds who struggle to breathe when exercising in the heat.
It’s good to remember that dogs will regulate their temperature by panting so if a dog can’t breathe properly, they can’t cool themselves down.
4. Take them for a swim
When it’s too hot to walk your dog, a perfect alternative is to take them for a swim. This is a great alternative for dogs that have arthritis or weight issues.
Not only will it cool them down, it’s also a great low-impact form of exercise, much like it is for us.
You can try using a portable dog pool if you don’t already have a pool or a dog beach nearby.
If you aren’t too sure about how good their fitness is, you can get them a cute doggy life jacket.
5. Cool them down
If you aren’t home with your pets during the day, there are heaps of products you can get that will help keep them cool.
Cooling mats means that your pet can chill out and lounge on a cool surface. Chilled bowls can also help keep their water cold.
There are even cooling bandanas, which will keep your dog ‘cool’ in more ways than one.
6. Give them a summer trim
You don’t wear winter coats during summer, so why would you make your pet wear theirs too?
Dr Carla recommends getting cats or dogs with long coats, like poodles or ragdolls, a trim regularly to avoid excessive shagginess and overheating.
You can avoid their fur from matting if you brush them regularly and keep them well-groomed.
7. Keep them sun safe
We all know that we need to slip, slop, slap sunscreen to keep our skin safe in summer and it’s the same with our pets.
According to Dr Carla, pets are most at risk of sunburn when they have white or light coloured fur. This is because they have decreased pigment levels in their skin.
Breeds at particular risk include bull terriers, border collies, boxers, dalmatians, greyhounds, whippets and staffies. The most common areas where dogs can get sun damage are their ears, eyelids, nose and belly.
If a dog gets sun damage, it can cause lesions that can be uncomfortable, painful and may lead to serious conditions like cancer.
Avoidance is the best strategy when it comes to sun protection. Dr Carla recommends keeping your pet indoors or in shaded areas during peak UV radiation times (usually between 11am-4pm).
You can use a pet safe sunscreen when you know your pet is going to be exposed. Carefully apply to vulnerable areas.
If they are particularly vulnerable, a UV resistant sunsuit may be the best option.
Summer provides perfect weather for you to have fun with your pet and get them outdoors. You don’t have to keep your pet locked up in air conditioning all day, just follow these simple tips to keep your pet safe this summer.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke or severe sun exposure, take them to a vet for immediate attention. You can check out the signs here.