Hot weather pet safety around here is a matter of life and death for cats and dogs. I live in N. Texas where it’s not unusual for weather to have everyone hot under the collar. Last year, we had many days over 100 degrees, so plan ahead for the hot weather to come. Just imagine how pets feel with a fur coat. Older dogs have more sense and aren’t as prone to overdo. But our rescue pup Shadow acts clueless, and we have to physically confine him or he’d never stop playing even in 100-degree weather.
Cats and dogs risk sunburn, pad burns, and life-threatening heatstroke without proper precautions. Never leave your pet unattended in a hot car. These tips can help you prevent problems, or even save your pet’s life.
HOT WEATHER PAD BURNS
Dogs don’t get pad burns very often because they flinch away from heat. But cats love heat and often lounge on surfaces up to 126 degrees. They won’t feel themselves getting burned.
Both dogs and cats can suffer pad burns from walking on hot pavement, especially when not offered the option for cooler pathways. They can get pad burns from walking across dirt, too, OUCH!
Do the barefoot test. If the pavement feels too hot for you, it’s also a problem for pets. Prevent pad burns by making shaded and/or grassy pathways an option. For pad burns, apply an aloe vera ointment three to five times a day to help shorten the healing time. It’s safe for pets to lick off in small amounts, too.
Fur protects most dogs and cats from sunburn in hot weather, but thinly furred ear tips, bridge of the nose, and the tummy can get burned. White pets are at the highest risk. Dogs who sleep on their back and sun-worshiping cats seem affected most often.
Shadow-Pup came to us with fur missing in a sore spot on his back–a burn received earlier in life. No fur grows there now. Pets shaved for medical procedures or grooming also increase the risk for sunburn.
Sunburn isn’t a medical emergency, but it can be painful. Cold water spray from a plant mister every half hour or so works great to soothe sunburned dogs, but cats hate getting sprayed. Aloe vera creams not only moisturize but also help heal burns faster. These products often contain vitamin E that speeds healing and soothes burns. Learn more about the dangers and what to do for pet sunburn.
Pets don’t sweat in hot weather. To cool off, dogs pant so the moisture evaporates off the tongue. Cats lick fur and evaporation keeps body temperatures at a safe level. But for grooming or panting to work, the outside air must be a lower temperature than the pet’s normal body temperature (101-102.5 degrees). When self-cooling fails, heatstroke kills in less than 15 minutes.
Cars become deathtraps. When the temperature reaches 78 degrees, cars sitting in the shade reach 90 degrees in no time. But if parked in the sun on a 78-degree day, car temp soars to 168 degrees within minutes. That cooks the brain, leaving irreversible damage. Read about heatstroke and what to do in this post.
Yes, there IS such a thing as too much water. Magical-Dawg loved to play “hose tag” and bite the water as it streamed out the hose. He drank a LOT of water during such games. Bravo-Dawg also loved this hot weather game. In fact, Bravo liked drinking water so much, he made himself sick. So we had to really watch his water intake.
When dogs become overheated, offering them too much water can cause water intoxication (hyponatremia). Here’s what happens.
Drinking too much dilutes the sodium in the blood. This lack of salt prompts water to flow into the cells, including brain cells. Excess water in cells creates swelling and results in serious problems and even death.
Signs of water intoxication include drooling, drunken behavior, lethargy, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils and glazed eyes, and pale gums, alone or in combination. The worst cases may also have problems breathing, collapse, suffer seizures or fall into a coma before they die.
This condition progresses VERY quickly, so as soon as you suspect a problem, get your dog to the vet. Treatment requires intravenous treatment to replace electrolytes, diuretics to get rid of excess water, and medications to reduce brain swelling. Dr. Karen Becker has an excellent article on the condition here.
During water games, be sure to give dogs a break from the fun every 15 minutes or so, and monitor the amount they drink. Dogs diving underwater, or playing with the hose or sprinkler may gulp large amounts that you don’t notice. Supervision is key to keeping your dog’s water play safe.
HOT WEATHER COOL PET TIPS
Prevent heatstroke by providing shade for outside pets, along with plenty of cool water. Specialized attachments turn outside faucets into 24/7 pet drinking fountains, so you won’t have to worry about spilled bowls. Misting fans and aerosols lower the temperature and keep pet fur damp to cool fur through evaporation. Misters can be placed on the porch, deck or near your dog’s pen.
Invest in cooling vests, bandannas and collars, body wraps, and pet mats from pet products outlets. Or just provide a child’s wading pool, fill it daily with cool water and let the water-puppies splash to their heart’s content.
Prevent problems altogether by keeping cats and dogs in air-conditioned spaces when the temperatures become dangerous. The most dangerous times of day for sunburn are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. so schedule cooler times for outdoor excursions.
Learn more about hot weather safety in this roundup post here.
For more first aid help for your pets, get the FIRST-AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS.
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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!