Summer. It’s that time of year that so many people all around the world celebrate. People and their pets may enjoy the longer days and warmer weather. However, the warm weather is not without its downsides. Being informed and taking the right precautions could be the difference between you and your pet having fun outside and a trip to the emergency vet.
Overheating and Heatstroke
Pets can easily overheat, and this can cause complications such as cardiovascular compromise, stroke, seizures and death. Unfortunately, pets don’t have to be outside to overheat. Some pets may overheat in the house or a building, particularly if the temperature isn’t well-controlled. It’s incredibly easy for pets of any sort to overheat in a vehicle, so don’t leave your pet in a car.
Some pets are at an increased risk of overheating. Brachycephalic breeds or short or snub-nosed breeds, such as Persian cats and pugs are more likely to overheat. Due to the conformational structures of their head, these pets may not be able to respire readily to control their body temperatures, with often-ineffective panting and longer soft palates which can block the trachea.
Keep your pet cool
There are a variety of ways to help keep your pet cool. Providing plenty of shade can help keep your pet’s temperature from becoming elevated due to direct sunlight. Cold, fresh water should also always be available to keep them cool.
You can get creative with ways to keep your furry family member cool. “Pupsicles” are a great way to get the family involved in keeping your pet safe. Blend “pet-safe” fruits and freeze or even freeze chicken broth. You can purchase a cooling vest or towels, as well.
The Heatstroke Hit
Some pets may develop heatstroke if they overheat. This potentially deadly condition needs to be treated immediately by a veterinarian, providing stabilizing therapies, such as IV fluids, while lowering your pet’s body temperature. Pets with heatstroke may develop conditions such as blood clotting disorders or neurologic conditions, such as seizures.
With the increase in outside temperatures, your pet’s paws are more likely to become injured. Concrete, such as sidewalks, can increase temperature rapidly. Moreover, these surfaces tend to hold onto heat even after the sun goes down. When your pet goes outside for a break and walks along these surfaces, they can burn their paws.
If your pet needs to go outside, try to stick to the grass and shaded areas that will be cooler on your pet’s paws (as well as yours). In addition to potential burns, the hotter sidewalks may also increase the likelihood of abrasions or sores on your dog or cat’s paws. If you know you’ll be walking on hotter surfaces, consider getting your pet booties to protect their paws.
Sun Exposure and Injury
Did you know that your pet can get sunburned, just like you? This can happen to just about any pet, from your cat to your horse. Light-skinned areas, such as pink noses, tend to burn easier. Areas that have less hair are also at a higher risk of getting sunburns (ears).
In addition to the pain and sores that may develop when your pet gets exposed to the sun, sunburns can increase the odds of your pet developing skin cancers. Cats, in particular, are at a higher risk of cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma, when they get sunburned.
There are several ways you can help protect your pet, and these can also help minimize their risk for overheating, which has its own potential health consequences. If you can, keep your pet out of the sun as much as possible.
If your pet has a cage outside, try to make sure that it is shaded, such as shifting your rabbit’s hutch to a different area of the yard. If your pet is going to be outside, look into pet-safe sunblock to help protect their skin.
Depending on where you live in the world, summertime may see your pet at a higher risk of becoming exposed to external skin parasites, including fleas and ticks. Warmer weather is also usually associated with an increase in mosquitoes, which can irritate your pet’s skin or, more importantly, transmit heartworms to your dog or other pets.
Each of these external parasites can lead to significant health complications. Fleas may cause your pet to become very itchy and could lead to skin infections. Ticks transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and may cause localized skin infections. These and other parasites may transmit significant diseases. Some are even contagious to you.
Your veterinarian can help you determine what the best course of flea, tick, and heartworm prevention would be, based upon where you live and your pet’s underlying health conditions.
Some pets absolutely love swimming, and summertime is when they get to partake in their favourite pastime. Drowning can be a risk, so make sure to watch them closely and consider putting a life vest designed for your pet’s size and shape on them.
If your pet likes to get wet, they may be at a higher risk for developing ear infections, particularly if they have other risk factors, such as allergies. Discuss ear cleaning plans with your veterinarian to help find the most effective course for your pet to minimize problems.
Depending on where your pet is swimming, they might be exposed to other compounds that could upset their skin or body. Chemicals in pools may irritate their skin, so you should consider bathing them after a swim. Pets playing at the beach may drink salt water, which can cause diarrhoea or vomiting. Certain ponds or lakes may have chemical runoff, which could be toxic, or bacteria or algae that can cause disease, including leptospirosis.
If you’re planning to enjoy the summer with your pet, whether it´s a cat, rabbit, or dog, you just need to have a game plan to keep them safe. Discuss your plans for the summer with your vet to get recommendations on the best preventative care for your pet.
Before you get out there and enjoy travelling, make sure your pet can be identified with a microchip, tattoo, or collar with identification tags. Keep your registration up-to-date, and ensure your pet is appropriately vaccinated to minimize potential health risks. Also make sure to use protective gear, such as booties and reflectors, to keep your pet safe.