Caring For Your Pet During the Dog Days of Summer
The hot Illinois’ summer is an especially crucial time to take stock of your own animal’s health and safety. Here are a few tips to help your pet survive the dog days of summer.
Heatstroke is one of the major risks for pets left in the sun for prolonged periods. Watch for the signs of possible pet heatstroke: panting, staring, an anxious expression, refusal to obey commands, warm dry skin, a high fever, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, and collapse. If those symptoms appear, move your pet to the shade and apply cool (not cold) water to his or her body gradually. Apply cold towels or ice packs to your pet’s neck, head, and chest only. Let your pet drink water or lick ice cubes. And take your pet to a vet immediately.
Don’t take your pets to crowded summer events such as concerts or fairs. Loud noises and crowds, combined with the heat, can be stressful and dangerous.
It is extremely dangerous – and in some states, illegal – to drive with a dog in the back of a pickup truck. Dogs should ride either in the cab (in a crate or with a seat belt harness designed for dogs), or in a secured crate in the bed of the truck.
Despite their fur coat, pets can get sunburned, particularly if they have light skin and hair. The consequences can include pain, peeling, and skin cancer. Keep your pet out of direct sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and when you go out, rub a little non-toxic sunblock on unprotected areas like the tips of the ears, the skin around the lips, and the tip of the nose. Also, if your pet has a thick coat, brush it regularly to keep it thinned out, but don’t shave them. Exposed skin will sunburn easily.
Animals shouldn’t be left outside unsupervised on long, hot days, even in the shade. Shade can move throughout the afternoon, and pets can become ill quickly if they overheat, so keep them inside as much as possible.
Check with your veterinarian to see if your dog or cat should be taking heartworm prevention medication. Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes and thus may pose a risk particularly during the summer months.
Hot weather may tempt your pet to drink from puddles in the street, which may contain antifreeze and other chemicals. Antifreeze has a sweet taste animals like, but it’s extremely toxic.
Store plant food, fertilizer, and insecticides where your pet can’t reach them.
Some fur can be beneficial in hot weather, insulating dogs from the heat and shield skin from the sun. But dogs don’t use sweat to cool themselves the way people do, so they don’t need to have exposed skin in order to stay cool. You can thin a thick coat by brushing your dog thoroughly and consistently with a wire or “rake”-type brush that remove some of the fuzzy undercoat layer. Shaving won’t hurt—just be careful to leave an inch or so of fur to provide insulation and sunburn protection.