Those dog days of summer are here – and the heat and humidity can take a toll on the well being of both dogs and cats.
"Our pets suffer from summer skin irritations, sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion, just as we do," says Traci Simo of pet care provider Canine Company. "The difference is they can't protect themselves. They need our help to be safe and healthy during the summer months." She shares the following advice for preventing major summer health problems.
Skin irritation and parasites. "A pet's coat is his best protection from sun and parasites and also creates a layer of insulation to keep cool air near the skin," says Simo. "That's why coat care is so important in the summer."
- Brush the pet's coat frequently to prevent matting, which can cause hot spots.
- Shampoo often to remove dust and mold spores that can cause skin irritation.
- Don't go overboard with summer haircuts. Unless a coat is badly matted, it's generally best not to shave it off. A professional groomer can offer advice on the best length for breed and lifestyle.
- Use a flea and tick prevention product to keep parasites at bay.
Sunburn and paw problems. "Yes, dogs and cats do get sunburned, especially those with white or light coats and thin, short hair."
- Apply a pet-safe sunscreen for days when pets will spend long hours outdoors.
- Keep pets out of direct sun during midday hours.
- Walk the dog on grass, not asphalt, which can become hot enough to burn her paws.
Heat exhaustion and dehydration. "Very young, very old and overweight pets are at greatest risk, but any pet can fall victim," says Simo. "If you notice signs like heavy panting, lethargy, lack of coordination or profuse salivation, wrap him in a cool, damp towel and get him to the vet." To prevent these issues:
- Don't exercise a dog in midday heat. Keep potty walks between noon and 4 pm short; take longer walks in the cooler early morning or evening hours.
- Be sure outdoor pets have a shady spot where they can get out of the sun and plenty of fresh water throughout the day.
- On very hot days, keep pets indoors in a room with air conditioning or a fan. "Remember, when it comes to heat and humidity," she adds, "if you're uncomfortable, your pet is, too."