Friday, April 20, 2012

Keeping Pets Cool in Summer

Summer 2011 saw some of the hottest temperatures recorded across the country. Record after record was broken. Texas experienced a drought so severe, entire lakes dried up, and 34,000 acres were lost to a wildfire in the city of Bastrop. The high temperatures and lack of rain in many areas also devastated wildlife populations, from birds to deer, and even livestock. Spring 2012 is already seeing warmer temperatures than normal. It only follows that your pets will also have a difficult time dealing with the heat if this, and future summers are similar to—or worse than—that record-breaking summer. You already know that part of taking proper care of your pet is making fresh, clean water readily available at all times. But what if your pet spends a lot of time outside? Or you take your dog with you to the park or camping? You know the heat can be uncomfortable for your pet. But keeping your pet cool in the summer is also about ensuring his health, not to mention avoiding costly bills for vet visits and pet meds. Here are a few tips to help you get ready for summer.

Provide Shade

No pet should be out in the hot sun all day, every day. No matter how much water you make available, spending that much time in the heat will take an extreme toll on your pet's body and health. Think about it. You wouldn't stay outside that long, right? And even though they're covered in fur, dogs and cats can get sunburned, especially if they have short, thin, or white hair. If, for whatever reason, you can't allow your dog or cat into the house, at least give them a cool, shady spot to rest. You may also consider sunscreen if you plan on taking your dog hiking, camping, or just to the park. Yes, they make sunscreen for pets. If your yard doesn't have natural shade from trees, or you don't have a covered patio, consider putting up a small canopy, or attaching an awning to the house. Better yet, if possible, give your pet access to the garage where there's shade and a cool, concrete floor to lie on. For dogs who spend a lot of time outside, consider getting a kiddie pool, and filling it with just a few inches of water (depth depending on the dog's size) so your dog can cool off throughout the day. Just remember to keep the pool in the shade, or the sun will make the water much too hot to do any good.

Get a Cool Bed

Even if your pet spends most of her time inside, a thick, fluffy bed may be too hot for the summer months. You'll probably notice your dog or cat seeking out spots on the kitchen or bathroom floors, or any other floors not covered with carpeting. They're already carrying quite a bit of insulation with all their fur—a soft, warm bed can just make them uncomfortable in the heat. Try getting your pet an elevated bed. They're made from breathable fabric and sturdy aluminum or PVC frames. These materials also make them a good option for the outdoors because they can just be hosed off when they get dirty, and allowed to air dry. The elevation allows air to circulate around your pet's body, keeping her cooler than just lying on the ground. Another type of cooling pet bed can be filled with water, which keeps your pet cool, and provides comfort.

Don't Shave Your Dog

This may seem counterintuitive, especially if your dog is of a particularly furry breed such as a Husky or Samoyed. While those dogs do very well in cold weather because of their thick coats, they're also built to handle the heat, specifically because of their abundance of fur. Heavy-coated dogs have a complex coat, usually consisting of at least two layers—the undercoat and the topcoat. This layering allows their bodies to regulate body heat the same way it helps them keep warm in cold temperatures. Removing their fur can throw off their bodies' natural way of dealing with heat, or even prevent regrowth of the hair. It also leaves them vulnerable to sunburn. All that said, there may still be times when shaving your dog is advisable, particularly if he's suffering from a skin condition. Before you let the groomer take the clippers to your dog's coat, do some reading on your dog's breed, and check with your vet.

Above all, do not ever leave your pet in a car when it's hot out, not even with the windows down, and not even for just a few minutes. Car interiors quickly become ovens, and can cause serious illness or death for pets left inside. And if you see a pet left in a hot car, call the authorities immediately. It's difficult enough to lose a beloved pet. It's even worse if it could have been avoided through a few simple precautions.

Jackie Roberts is a writer for 1-800-PetMeds, and loves to help and support the pet community. You can find Pet Meds on Twitter or connect with Pet Meds on Facebook.


Horst in Edmonton

Great advise Misty, I see to many pets and children in hot cars in the summer. When will people learn.

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