During the summer months, animals suffer a lot with the heat. It is not easy to carry a “fur coat” around when thermometers are above 25° C. Here are some tips to help our pets enduring the hottest days.
By Ricardo Ribas
Imagine yourself in your pet’s skin performing the daily routines with high temperatures. How would you feel if you were left for a long time in a locked car on the sun with a fur coat. All this in midsummer! The idea itself is suffocating. But how many trips to the supermarket led to this situations? Dogs and cats are highly susceptible to the heat specially because they have few sweat glands, which are necessary to control and maintain body temperature. Dogs actually sweat through their paws and use their tongue as a cooling mechanism, reason why they often walk with the tongue hanging when they are tired or feeling hot.
Frequent problems during summer season
Ticks and flea infestations are very uncomfortable for the animal because of the itchiness and the skin irritation they produce. Additionally, both parasites are carriers of other diseases, reason why the importance of controlling and prevent their infestations. There are various products on the market in the form of sprays, shampoos, collars, tablets, etc. The veterinary can assist making the best choice. For instance, heartworm disease is a pathology caused by a parasite, which is transmitted to the dog or cat by the mosquito bite. Once infected the animal, it will lodge in the pulmonary arteries and heart, causing coughing, tiredness, wheezing, weight loss and if left untreated, can lead to death. The control of mosquitos is usually the best preventative measure.
Since pets do not sweat through the skin, extra baths during the summer months are not necessary or advised. The frequent use of shampoos and soaps – even those indicated for dogs and cats – remove the natural oiliness of their skin causing dermatological problems. In fact, the animals should only be bathed when they are really dirty and is important to keep the coat suitably dry. Wet hair attracts bacteria and fungi that can cause diseases called mycosis. If your dogs have long hair, the best option is to trim the hairs during the hot months. Seasonal trim provides a great relief ensuring a good hygiene.
Direct exposure to sunlight, especially when temperatures are high, should be avoided as much as possible. Often dogs suffer from heat shock, especially when they are left inside cars on hot days. The owners have the best intentions not to leave the animal at home alone, but as most stores do not allow dogs, and the most practical solution is to leave the animal “just a little” in the car. However, sometimes the time flies inside the shops particularly with air conditioning and the owner takes longer than normal… These distractions however can lead to serious problems that ultimately can cause the animal’s death. In hot days, the temperature inside the car can easily reach 60° C within few minutes? Exposure to heat causes initially an increase in the body temperature and dehydration. The animal will then show difficulty breathing, starts salivating, presents with anxiety, fever, dry skin, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea, and in extreme cases will suffer cardiac changes. If you notice these symptoms, remove the animal immediately from the sun and give him water to drink. Then try to lower his body temperature by wrapping him with moist towels or spraying him with warm water. Take all these precautions as calmly as possible. Avoid to pour cold water over his back as the shock created by different temperatures can be dangerous. Finally, take your pet to the veterinary immediately, since this is considerate an emergency.
During the summer the food intake should be similar to the rest of the year. However, due to the heating, it is important to take extra care as food spoils quickly. Avoid leaving meals on the sun and remove them from the plate ideally after 30 minutes. It is also important to keep moist foods refrigerated until served and dry foods in cool, dry and ventilated places. It is normal that during hot weather, the animals have less appetite and are less energetic. This is generally normal behaviour and not a reason for concerned.
Always have fresh and clean water available for the animal to drink, making sure is it is kept away from the sun and is changed regularly.
Pay attention to the walks
In hot days, go for walks at the cooler hours of the day to avoid sunburn or burning of the paw caused by scorching floors. It is important to be well prepared if taken the animal for long walks. Animals should be physically well prepared before beginning a rigid exercise program. Forcing animals to a strong exercise beyond their physical capacity, especially in warm weather, can led to exhaustion. These are characterized by a rise in body temperature, cardio-respiratory problems, dehydration and potentially death. When walking puppies, take extra care as young animals can get tired very quickly. Puppies need a lot of rest to be able to allocate a lot of their energies to their grow. Also, if you have an old or obese animal that walk slowly, spare them from too much effort.
Beaches and pools …
Both swimming pools and beaches are places to avoid taking your dog. Dogs are often infected by a parasite called Ancylostoma caninum, that is eliminated by their stools and easily spread to people, causing skin problems. Children are particularly affected. If you are still keen to take your pet with you to the beach, make sure you deworm him beforehand.
It is also important to be careful when taking the dogs to swim in the sea or in swimming pools. Often dogs with drooping ears – where ventilation is less effective – suffer from ear infections due to water accumulation. To avoid these problems, place cotton in the ears before take the animal to the water. After swimming in the sea, is also important to wash their hair with fresh water to remove the salt, avoiding skin irritation.
Finally, always keep in mind that swimming pools are very dangerous places for dogs, as only a few animals can make their way up the vertical stairs. The vast majority, when dropped too long in the water will drown themselves from exhaustion. Further attention should be payed when dogs are accompanied by children in the pool as the animals may try to lean on the children causing them to drown.
Burns and skin cancer
It is important to take in consideration that the animal’s fur will not protect them from sunlight. All animals are at risk of developing sun burns and skin cancer. It is important to protect the dog from the sun whenever you take him to the beach. Avoid lying in the sun and always take fresh water with you so that the animal can drink whenever feels the need.
White-haired animals are particularly more susceptible to these diseases and extra care should be taken.
Veterinary doctor, doctorate in veterinary sciences and researcher in the area of oncology in London.
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2. Joanna Pendergrass. How Do Dogs Sweat?. 19 Sept 2018. PETMD. https://www.petmd.com/news/view/how-do-dogs-sweat-37585
3. Tick. Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tick. Accessed August 2019.
4. Dirofilaria immitis. Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirofilaria_immitis. Accessed August 2019.
5. Heatstroke. RSPCA. https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/health/heatstroke.
6. Ancylostoma caninum. Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancylostoma_caninum. Accessed August 2019.
The subjects, ideas and advices discussed in this article are for informational purposes only. For more information consult a vet or a professional in the area. Whilst every effort is made to make sure the article is accurate at the time of publication, I take no liability for any new developments on the subject as well as any errors or omissions.