Chicago, IL — The Dog Days of Summer are returning with dangerous weather conditions to the Chicago metropolitan area. Pet owners must recognize that both dogs and cats can suffer from the same heat-related problems affecting humans, which include over-heating, dehydration, and even sunburn. Preemptive action taken now can help to make a difference so pets have a safe and enjoyable summer with their owners.
The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association offers the following simple precautions that pet owners and families must take to protect their companion animals from the elements all summer long.
- Never leave your pet alone in a vehicle, as overheating can quickly lead to death. Dogs and cats do not sweat like humans; sometimes, they are unable to pant fast enough to cool down. Even with the windows open, or located in the shade, a parked vehicle can quickly become a furnace on a hot day.
- Don’t force your pet to exercise after a meal in hot, humid weather. Try to exercise in the early morning or later in the evening when the temperatures are cooler, and keep long walks to a minimum. Since your pet does not always know to say when, it is up to you to pay careful attention. The minute your dog goes from walking in front of you to lagging behind you, this is usually a sign it has become too exerted and overheated.
- Never leave your dog standing on hot asphalt for long periods of time as the body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads may burn.
- Always bring plenty of cold water, along with a portable bowl when out with your pet to ensure proper hydration.
- Provide plenty of shade as well as a well-constructed doghouse for a pet that spends time outside. Bring your animal inside during the hottest part of the day and supply plenty of cool water. It is best that cats remain indoors on extremely hot days.
- Offer a cool or air conditioned room for your pet. Old and overweight animals require extra attention in hot weather. Short nosed, large heavy coated breeds, and dogs with heart and/or respiratory problems are at greater risk for heat stroke.
- Maintain a well-groomed pet to prevent summer skin irritations. Shaving a heavy-coated dog’s hair to a one-inch length will help prevent overheating. Cats should be brushed more often in the summer to help thin-out any excess fur. Exercise caution to not to shave the hair all the way down to the skin, as this will remove protection from the sun and can expose your pet to sunburn.
- Watch for any changes in skin color, since pets are not immune from skin cancer.
- Do not take your pet to the beach unless shade and plenty of fresh drinking water are readily available. If swimming in salt water, thoroughly rinse your pet to prevent skin irritation.
Remember that dogs will often slow down, seek shade or stop exercising in the heat. Other times, more subtle signs of excessive panting, drooling or confusion can be seen prior to a heat stroke. Watch and listen to your pet, enjoy the shade with your companion, and always bring water to prevent these crises.
Preparation is the always key with a plan in advance of an emergency by knowing the location of the nearest veterinarian and emergency veterinary medical services. Store the information for your veterinarian or the emergency clinic in a cell phone and on the refrigerator. If you suspect the slightest problem or discomfort in your pet, call a veterinarian and make an appointment for an exam.