When the warm weather arrives, conscientious pet owners typically reevaluate how to care for their pets. As the seasons change, so may a pet’s needs, and different safety precautions might be necessary.
Warm weather seasons are many people’s favorite time of year. Pets, too, enjoy the benefits of the warm weather, including more opportunities to frolic outside. But the sunshine and hot weather that is synonymous with the summer season can prove treacherous to some pets.
Although the hot-weather months are sometimes called “the dog days of summer,” that doesn’t mean that your dog enjoys them. According to “Dogs in Antiquity: Anubis to Cerebrus: The Origins of the Domestic Dog,” by Douglas Brewer, Sir Terence Clark, and Adrian Phillips, the term “dog days of summer” was coined by the ancient Greeks and Romans actually to describe the hottest days of summer that coincided with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. It has nothing to do with dogs loving the summer. So keep in mind your pooch and other pets may not be acclimated to hot weather and may suffer for it.
Dogs, cats and small animals who are left inside a hot car, even if just for a few minutes, can be susceptible to heat-related illness and even death. Dogs are particularly vulnerable to the heat because they can only cool off by panting and through the sweat glands in the pads of their feet.
Animal cruelty laws apply to just about anyone who endangers their animal’s life through negligence. Failure to take weather conditions into consideration may be a criminal act, depending on where a pet owner lives.
To avoid heat-related injury to a companion animal, keep these tips in mind.
• Even on a day that seems mild, an enclosed car can reach deadly temperatures. A Stanford University study found that even when it was a mere 72 degrees outdoors, the interior temperature of a car reached 116 degrees within one hour. Research further indicated that cracking the windows of the car had little effect on lowering the internal temperature of the vehicle.
• Pets generally have a higher body temperature than people. A dog’s normal body temperature, for example, is between 101 to 102.5 degrees. Being outside in the heat or locked inside a hot room can quickly bring that body temperature up. Nerve damage, liver damage, heart problems, and even death can occur if a dog’s body temperature rises just a little bit.
• It is important to provide pets with extra water, as they may be more thirsty when it is hot outdoors. If you will be spending a day away from home, leave one or two bowls of water available and put in a few ice cubes, which will help keep the water cooler.
• If your pet is outdoors, make sure he has plenty of access to shady areas in which to rest. A child’s wading pool can provide a respite from the heat as well.
• Avoid walks and daily exercise during the hottest parts of the day. Try to reschedule these for early morning or early evening when things generally cool down. Remember, pavement and sidewalks can be very hot and burn the delicate pads of the feet.
• Discuss pet sunscreen products with a veterinarian. Animals with short hair or with white fur and pink skin may be more susceptible to sunburn and damage from potentially harmful UV rays.
• Be mindful of open windows and pet birds. It can be easy for birds to escape when a window is left open in the house, especially if your birds are given daily exercise outside of the cage. On another note, keep in mind that glass is virtually invisible to birds, and wild birds may collide with glass if windows are kept shut while the air conditioning is on. Glass reflects the images of trees, bushes and the sky, so a bird may fly directly into it. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offers that one of the greatest hazards to birds is plate glass, with windows in homes and offices killing as many as one billion birds each year.
• Stay up-to-date with vaccinations, as biting insects, such as mosquitoes, ticks and flies, are more prevalent this time of year and can transmit diseases.
• Avoid toxic gardening products if you and your pet frequently spend time in the yard.
• Don’t assume your dog knows how to doggie paddle. Despite the name, not all pups have mastered this method of staying afloat. Keep in mind an unattended dog can drown.
The warm-weather season is one in which people enjoy lounging outdoors and soaking up some sun. You can ensure your pets enjoy it, too, by taking precautions and other safety measures.
Pets require special attention when the weather turns warmer.