The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.
by Chelsea Pennington, Writer and Animal Enthusiast
Summer weather can be great for swimming, hikes, and other outdoor adventures, but the heat can be especially hard on pets, so make sure you know the best way to keep your furry friend safe this season.
Overheating is the biggest danger in warm weather, so it is important to know the signs and keep an eye on your pet when they’re outdoors or in any warm location.
Symptoms include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased respiratory or heart rate, drooling more than usual, mild weakness, lethargy or even collapsing. More severe reactions can occur when a pet’s body temperature reaches over 104 degrees, such as seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.
Pets that are very young, very old, overweight, not used to prolonged exercise or have previous heart or respiratory disease are more susceptible to overheating. Certain breeds are also more prone, especially flat-faced animals such as pugs and Persian cats, since they have trouble releasing heat by panting.
If your pet does become overheated, knowing what to do and acting quickly can prevent it from getting any worse. Move your pet into shade or an air-conditioned area if possible. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest, or run cool (not cold) water over them.
Drinking too much water at this point could be dangerous, so allow them to drink small amounts of water or lick ice cubes. If you suspect your pet may be overheating it’s always a good idea to call your veterinarian or take them in to be seen.
Of course, the best way to deal with heatstroke is to prevent it! One of the most important and easiest things you can do is make sure your pet is hydrated. Always keep a bowl of fresh, clean water available for your pets indoors and outdoors. When they’re outside, make sure they have access to shade.
A dog house is not a good solution since it doesn’t allow air flow; instead, rely on a tree or set up a tarp or tent to provide shade.
Take your dog on walks in the morning or evening when it’s cooler outside, and avoid having your dog walk on asphalt for extended periods. Asphalt can get very hot and potentially burn your pup’s paws, and since they’re closer to the ground the heat radiating off the surface can cause them to warm up even more quickly.
Bring water on walks to keep your dog hydrated, and consider investing in a cooling mat or vest that you can bring along to lower your dog’s body temperature.
Some solutions that seem like they would help humans in the heat can be unhelpful or even harmful to pets.
While it’s okay to shave down some dogs, many breeds should never be shaved. Many double-coated dogs, like Huskies, have a special coat that keeps them both cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
For cats, brushing more frequently than usual can help prevent problems caused by heat. If you decide to use sunscreen or insect repellant for your pet, be sure to use a product labeled specifically for use on animals, not just the bottle of sunscreen you have lying around from last summer.
One of the most important things to remember in hot weather is to never leave your pet unattended in the car. Temperatures inside a car can rise to dangerous levels within minutes, even when the windows are left cracked.
For example, on an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with cracked windows can reach 102 degrees in ten minutes, and after thirty minutes it can climb to 120 degrees. Your pet can suffer from irreversible organ damage, or even die.
Leaving a pet unattended in a car is illegal in many states, and be sure to know what your state’s policy is so you know how to react if you see a pet left in a car.
If it’s just too hot outside for exercise but your dog needs to burn some energy, Bark + Boarding’s Doggie Daycare is a great option. They are able divide their play space into different sized play zones that can be joined or separated to accommodate dogs in need of a calm break or those who require some extra enrichment activities.
Your dog will receive outdoor playtime and bathroom breaks and constant, professional supervision while they play. Just because it’s heating up outside doesn’t mean your dog can’t have fun!