Warm Weather Safety Tips: How to Keep Your Pets Safe in the Sun
Founder of Camp Bow Wow, Heidi Ganahl, plays with countless dogs at one of the company's 200 franchise locations. Ganahl spoke to Zootoo on how owners can keep their pets safe this season. (Photo courtesy of Camp Bow Wow)
If April showers bring May flowers, then the combination of the two mean a climbing heat index. While pets are eager to get outside as much as possible in warmer climates, the sunny weather is not without some perils for both cats and dogs.
Who should know better about pets, warm weather, and fun activities than Heidi Ganahl, CEO and founder of Camp Bow Wow, which boasts 200 nationwide franchises handling 108 camps a season. With each camp keeping about 100 dogs active on a daily basis, Ganahl is the premier expert on taking care of pets during the dog days of summer. So Zootoo Pet News got her take on what owners can do to keep their pets safe this summer:
In your experience, how have you watched the summer heat impact cats and dogs?
Ganahl: Summers provide lots of opportunities for fun with your dog — camping, hiking, swimming, kayaking and backpacking, to name a few — but also bring a unique set of health hazards and risks pet owners should be aware of including: dehydration, burned pads, parasite infestation, heat stroke, leptospirosis, and seasonal allergies.
Some heat-related "symptoms" are obvious — panting, drinking more water — but what are some more hidden behaviors which should indicate to owners that a cat or dog is feeling the effects of warm weather?
Ganahl: The eyes appear sunken and lack moisture. The mouth appears dry; gums and nose are dry.
What is the most important activity a pet should be doing to beat the summer heat?
Ganahl: Keep them cool or out of the sun, and keep them calm and not too active!
Are dogs or cats more prone to feel the effects of heat?
Ganahl: Different issues for each, but here’s the scoop on keeping kitties safe: you can help your cat survive extremely hot weather by keeping him indoors in a cool interior room. Rubbing him down with a damp towel will help; so will immersing his feet in a tub of cool water. Wrapping a cold compress under the cat's neck will also help cool him off. He may fight at first, but most likely will appreciate it once he gets used to the idea. Try wrapping a plastic bag of frozen peas in a towel, and placing it in his bed for a cool spot to lie. The peas will rearrange themselves to fit his contours and he'll have a "custom spa" for cooling off.
In addition to Ganahl's advice, there are myriad ways owners should work on keeping their pets safe. Check out Zootoo's compiled list below to ensure your cat and dog have a carefree and fun summer:
Pets need sunscreen. Just like humans, your cat or dog can get extremely sunburned, especially if your pet has light colored hair. Animal sunburns can cause the same problems as those of humans: peeling, redness and even cancer. Skin cancer in pets is much more prevalent than one would assume, so purchasing pet-friendly sunscreen can go a long way in protecting the health of your pet when the heat kicks in. Places that are easy to forget, but prone to burning are: inside the nostrils, tip of nose, around your dog’s lips and the inside of ears for dogs with stand-up ears.
Never leave your pet in the car. It may seem like a car trip will cool off your pet, but it will probably do more harm than good if you leave your pet in the car for even a few minutes. The temperature in your car can rise over 100 degrees in a manner of minutes, so if you are bringing the dog in the car, make sure you can take him out on any errands you run when parking the vehicle.
Pets need extra water... but don’t let them drink just anything. Just like humans, pets need a lot of water during the summer, but be careful not to leave that water out too long. The heat can breed bacteria, which can sicken your pet if you’ve left it out in the sun too long. Give your dog extra water during the spring and summer, but be careful to change the water often. If dogs are extra thirsty, pets are bound to drink something they shouldn't drink. Puddles of what looks like water may be on the ground, but these may include antifreeze or other dangerous chemicals, so keep an eye when the dog is panting and looking for something to sip on.
Don’t give your pet TOO much exercise. Don't overdo it in the heat. Keep walks to a gentle pace. If your pet is panting a lot or seems exhausted, it's time to stop. There are quick and easy ways for you and your pet to get in shape together this summer, but one of them is not overdoing it — try changing up the routine and jogging intervals with your dog, or walking up and down hills in order to exercise both yourself and your pet.
Inside is better than outside. Even if your pet is in the shade, it can get sick quickly on hot days. As much as Fido wants to go outside, it is usually smarter to keep your pet inside as much as possible. If you have to leave the dog outside on a hot day, make sure to check on him/her regularly. NEVER leave the house on a hot day with the dog outside.
Watch for heatstroke. Dogs can develop heatstroke fairly quickly. Signs of this are excessive panting, staring, anxious expression on the face, warm skin, refusal to obey commands by owner, vomiting, collapse and rapid heartbeat. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from this, lower the animal's body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of the body. Often the pet will respond after just a few minutes of cooling, only to falter again with his temperature soaring back up or falling to well below what is normal. Take the dog to the vet immediately — don’t try to solve this yourself.
Throw away uneaten food. Although you may leave wet cat food out or dog food during the day in winter months, summer months and warm weather lead to increased bacteria growth, so if your pet doesn’t eat it immediately, bring the food inside to the cool house, where it can be kept for longer.
CAT SPECIFIC TIPS
Watch out for hairballs. Despite the fact that spring is the main shedding season for cats, indoor cats also shed a lot in hot weather, so be wary of this during the summer months. It is much easier for your cat to ingest more hair and spit up hairballs frequently when it is hot outside. Frequently brushing your cat helps alleviate the chance of this, or even buying a “hairball prevention product” which will lower the chance of this happening and making your cat sick.
Keep the cat wet if it is an outdoor pet. If you have an outdoor cat, it is likely that it will remain outside most of the time during the spring and summer months. Frequently give it a bath or spray it with a squirt bottle to keep it from overheating, or even pet your cat with a wet glove or towel to cool it down. This is especially important if your cat is elderly or obese.
Protect outdoor cats against fleas and ticks more than ever. Although fleas and ticks are problems throughout the year, they are especially bad during the summer months. Ensure you use a good quality flea control product on your outdoor cat and treat the environment that it stays in as well. Make sure that you check your outdoor cat for ticks often as they are dangerous and can result in death.
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