Keeping your cool in the summer is always difficult but we have fingers to turn up the air conditioning, and the ability to sweat. Our pets can’t reach the thermostat or turn on the hose, and they have a very limited ability to cool themselves by sweating, so they need our help.
The first and biggest summertime concern is leaving a pet unattended in a car when it’s warm. Yet we hear about such tragedies every year. Some people don’t realize that remote starters turn off after a period of. A car may run cold for a while but if you are detained or delayed and can’t get back before it shuts off, things can go bad very quickly. A car can become uncomfortably hot in just a few minutes, and deadly a few minutes after that. Leaving windows cracked open can help but even then, if there is no wind, disaster awaits.
If you do see a pet in a car, remember that it is illegal to break into a car. Call 911 or the Humane Society’s animal distress line at 204-982-2020. Follow the operator’s instructions.
If you are travelling with your pets, bring them with you when you leave the car. Most places will understand if you bring your pet in, especially when you explain that you don’t want to cook them in your vehicle. Let shopkeepers know you will be careful with your pet and that, if they have an accident or chew on anything, you will accept responsibility.
Just hanging out on a summer day in the backyard seems harmless but you have to remember that dogs have fur coats. While those can insulate the animals from heat just as they insulate from cold in winter, if their coats are not properly maintained, that insulation can be compromised. A matted dog will get hotter quicker than a well-brushed dog. We use “evaporative cooling” (the cooling effect we experience from sweating) on our pets by hosing them down or letting them run though a pool or sprinkler. If a pet’s coat is matted, that water cannot evaporate, gets underneath matted fur and can actually cause bacteria growth and/or lesions. If the coat is mat-free, the water can evaporate freely and keep you pup cool.
Always ensure your pets have plenty of water available when outside on a hot day. It does not have to be ice water, room temperature is just fine. You can also get cooling vests or bandanas, which can be moistened or frozen and worn to assist in cooling.
Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, like bulldogs, pugs and pekes, are much more prone to heat issues due to their limited ability to cool though panting, the primary cooling method of dogs. Dogs only have merocrine sweat glands (similar to human sweat glands) on their paws, so sweating alone will not keep them cool.
If you notice your pets overheating, move them to an air-conditioned environment, offer them water, and drape with wet towels. Ice water or ice itself might not be the best idea, as it can cause shock. If the animal exhibits symptoms such as, but not limited to, lethargy, weakness, shaking, vomiting, seizures and/or a temperature of over 103 F (using a rectal or ear thermometer) you need to take action. If they lose consciousness, exhibit disorientation or collapse , they may have heat stroke and you should seek emergency veterinary attention.
The best way to avoid overheating is moving your active playtimes to mornings or evenings, when it is cooler and sun is less of an issue.
Safely enjoying summer with our pets is easy if you take a few simple precautions.