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Summer tips for your dogs and cats
Summertime can be hugely enjoyable for you and your pet, as long as you take the right precautions to protect them from the heat. The main reason the hot weather is an issue for them is because they are not able to cool off as easily as humans.
Dogs don’t sweat like humans do. They cool themselves down through panting. When breathing in hot stuffy air, they struggle to cool down the same way in which we do, and issues such as dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn can often be the result of overheating.
One of the most common mistakes made in summer is people leaving their dogs in a hot car. It can take only minutes for them to overheat and suffocate. Most people don’t realise how hot it can get, even if the car is parked in the shade with the windows open. If you need to go somewhere which requires stopping and leaving them in the car, please leave your dog at home. It is just not worth the risk.
Although your dog should always have access to fresh drinking water, it is especially important in summer. Panting and drinking are the only ways to cool themselves down, so without it, they will struggle.
Walking at the cooler times of the day is recommended. For example, walk them first thing in the morning, or after the sun has gone down in the evening. Avoid 11am-3pm, as this tends to be when the temperature is at its hottest.
When walking them, try to stick to grass. Tarmac gets very hot in summer and can cause burn injuries to their sensitive paws. If you can’t avoid these surfaces, consider dog boots or socks. If you cannot walk across it barefoot, they shouldn’t have to either.
Water is a dog’s best friend during those hot summer months, and not just for drinking. Fill a paddling pool with water to encourage them to cool down. Be careful around swimming pools and lakes though, as not all dogs are strong swimmers.
Just like humans, dogs can burn too, especially those with short or light-colored coats. It is painful and can be just as dangerous for them as it is for us. There is specific dog sun cream you can get to use on areas with little or no fur if you know you will be spending time outside. Speak to your vet if you are unsure which one. We don’t advise using human sun cream on them, due to their different skin type.
A brilliant idea for helping them cool down is to freeze their food (if they eat wet food), or by freezing foods like bananas. Not only will this cool them down on those hot days, but it will encourage them to eat too. This is the perfect idea for easy, pet-friendly, summer treats.
Shaving their fur can actually do more harm than good. Their layers help protect them from overheating and sunburn. You can groom them regularly, however. Removing the excess fur can help prevent them from overheating.
Keeping your pet up-to-date with their flea and worm treatment is hugely important in summer. Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and tapeworms are more problematic during the summer months and can be dangerous to their health. Book in for one of our free nurse consultations at Village Vet if you are unsure when to give the treatment, or how to administer it.
Avoid puddles, and grass with fertiliser. Cars leak more antifreeze in hot weather, which is hugely dangerous and toxic for dogs. The same with fertiliser. Be sure to wipe down their paws after a walk too, as they will most likely lick their paws at some point during the day.
Cats can overheat just as quickly as dogs, so it is important to protect them from the heat too.
It can be a little harder with cats, especially if you have an outdoor cat, as you don’t know where they are a lot of the time. During the summer months, it is best to keep them indoors during the hottest time of day (11am-3pm).
Ensure they always have access to water and shade. Older cats, in particular, are vulnerable to dehydration. The occasional ice cube dropped in their water will help maintain a cooler temperature.
Be careful with leaving windows open, especially if you live up high. Cats can be very curious, and if they want to get outside, they won’t think twice about the consequences. Wire mesh screens are a great way for you to leave the windows open without there being any injuries. If your cat does fall from a window, make sure you take them straight to the vets. Even if it looks as though they are uninjured, it is still best to have them checked over by a professional, to ensure all is ok.
Similarly to dogs, cats can also overheat if left in a car, which can lead to suffocation, so please avoid this at all costs.
Also, like dogs, pale-coloured cats are susceptible to sunburn, particularly on their ears and ‘little to no fur’ areas. Specific cat sun cream can be applied to those sensitive parts of the body. If you notice that their skin looks irritated at all, take them to the vets for a check-up.
A tangle-free coat will also protect their delicate skin, but again a trim is all they need.
Ice ball toys are fantastic for cats during summer. You can make these by freezing a small water-filled balloon, then remove the balloon once frozen. This will keep your cat cool and occupied for a while.
Flat-faced pets, such as Pugs, Pekingese, Bulldogs and Persian cats, are more vulnerable to heat stroke, due to them not being able to pant as easily. This also goes for elderly and overweight pets, so please ensure you do all you can to make the summer months as easy as possible for them.
Signs of heatstroke are lethargy, rapid panting (even more so than normal), lack of co-ordination, vomiting and diarrhoea, red gums and worst case scenario seizures.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you need to phone your vet straight away to ask them what to do. You will need to take them in to see the vet, but the vet will be able to recommend what you can do to help them immediately.
You can, however, prevent this from happening. Summer can be an enjoyable time for you and your pets, as long as you keep them safe in the heat.