Helping Pets Beat the Heat
By Kimberly Horg
During the summer when temperatures are at their highest, everyone needs to cool off, even the furry members of the family. Experts have many tips to keep pets comfortable during the months where triple digits hit the Valley.
Dr. Jamie Medina, veterinarian at the Banfield Pet Hospital in Clovis, has been practicing since July 2008. He says it’s important to keep your pet cool because animals can overheat or suffer from heatstroke from being exposed to too much heat. Dogs and cats don’t sweat the same way that humans do, so many breeds have a difficult time keeping cool.
The two most important factors are making sure pets have access to a shaded area or proper shelter and plenty of water.
“Watch how your pet responds to the heat; if they lay down panting, they are likely having a hard time staying cool. If they look comfortable, they probably are,” Medina said.
He also advised that people make sure a pet’s exercise is limited to short periods of time during the coolest part of the day. Keep walks to a gentle pace, avoid hot sidewalks or roads, and bring a packable water bowl with fresh water while exercising with your pet.
Julie Benton of Animal Rescue of Fresno (ARF), added that in situations where animals have to be outdoors in triple digits, it is recommended to install misters.
The volunteers at ARF believe dogs are family, so being indoors with a dog door is the optimum solution. Some garages can become severely hot in summer or freezing in the winter.
Overweight pets, dogs and cats with very short noses (like bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs, Persians, Himalayans and boxers) as well as pets with heart or lung disease are especially sensitive to the effects of heat/humidity because they cannot cool themselves effectively. The short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds are especially prone to suffering from heatstroke because the breeds aren’t able to pant as efficiently as dogs with longer faces.
Contrary to what some might think, thick-coated dogs shed, so the fur thins out in the summer months to handle the heat, whereas brachycephalic dogs will overheat quickly because they cannot get sufficient air.
Heatstroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment by your veterinarian. Symptoms include exaggerated panting, rapid heartbeat, high fever, vomiting, brick red gums, staring, anxious expression or collapse. Dehydration is also very common in overheated pets.
“You should always keep their water bowl full,” Medina said.
He recommends ice water and ice, as long as the ice is given in moderation. Using ice as a treat can be a good alternative to other treats because it has no calories. However, be sure it doesn’t cause a choking hazard, and give smaller pieces to protect teeth from breaking.
“Ice cubes are great. Many pets love them,” said Brenda Mitchell, president of Animal Compassion Team and Fresno Humane Animal Services.
Bathing a pet more often in the summer can help them stay cool, but grooming should be discussed with a professional.
“Talk to your veterinarian about specifically grooming your pet for warmer weather. Although it can help keep shaggier pets cool and clean in the summer, it also exposes their skin to the sun and can lead to sunburn,” Medina said.
Benton doesn’t recommend shaving short-haired breeds and for long-haired animals, leave at least an inch. Pads of paws will also burn easily if walking on a hot surface, so keep them in shaded areas off of asphalt and cement.
Another important reminder in the warmer months is to leave a pet at home.
“It’s critical to remember to never keep your pet in a car or in direct sun on a summer day or really any time,” Medina said.