Our Specialist Guide to keeping your pet healthy this summer
Davies Veterinary Specialists
Client Care, Pet Owners
1st July 2019
With longer days and warmer temperatures, the summer’s great for spending more time outdoors with your pet.
To help you keep your dogs and cats cool and healthy throughout the season, our Veterinary Specialists and Nurses have put together some tips on common summer ailments – including how to avoid and recognise heatstroke, how to keep your pet safe at the beach and first aid for insect stings.
How does the heat affect pets?
Did you know that, just like humans, pets can get heatstroke?
Dogs and cats have a small number of sweat glands in their paw pads but these do not contribute significantly to heat loss. They predominantly lose heat by conduction, such as through contact with a cold surface, and convection – movement of air over the skin. As the body temperature increases, blood vessels in the skin dilate to increase blood flow close to the surface of the skin. This enables heat to be lost from the blood around the body.
Overheating can cause inflammation throughout their body, which affects major organs, and when body temperature rises above 41.5C, irreparable damage starts and can become fatal. Signs of heatstroke include a temperature of 40oC and up (in both cats and dogs), faster/heavier breathing, increased heart rate, distress, dry mouth, staggering, weakness, collapse and, ultimately, unconsciousness.
Heatstroke can arise from leaving pets in cars or conservatories and other garden buildings. Cats may sneak into outdoor buildings or greenhouses seeking shade and not be able to get out. Dogs can also get into difficulty if exercised in very hot weather, so be careful exercising your dog if the temperature is above 20oC. It’s best to exercise your dog in the early morning or evening and ensure your dog has access to plenty of water. Heatstroke is rare in cats but can happen if a cat has been trapped somewhere like a greenhouse on a hot day.
What should I do if I suspect my pet has heatstroke?
If your pet does become very hot, soak it with cool (but not cold) water and use a fan to improve cool air flow. Soaking your pet’s feet and placing cool towels on the abdomen can work well. Do not be tempted to put a wet towel on your pet as this will just warm up the towel and prevent heat escaping from your pet’s body.
If you suspect your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, call your vet.
How can I keep my pet cool in hot weather?
No one wants their pet to feel uncomfortable, let alone suffer heatstroke. Following the tips below can help your pet cope better with the summer heat.
- Create shade when outside in gardens, parks or at the beach e.g. by using umbrellas/ chairs/ tents.
- Provide a fresh supply of water wherever you are.
- Drop ice cubes in pet bowls to keep water refreshingly cool.
- Leave windows or doors (when safe) ajar to create a cooling breeze through the house.
- Never leave pets in cars, conservatories or caravans as heat can rapidly rise to dangerous levels.
- Place a fan in your pet’s favourite room, allowing them to seek relief when needed.
- Check sheds, garages and outhouses for pets before locking them – cats especially love sneaking in to escape the heat.
- Help long-haired animals by treating them to a haircut to remove some unnecessary insulation.
- Exercise dogs in the early morning or evenings to avoid peak temperatures and burnt paws.
- Pale dogs can get sunburn so apply animal or child-safe sun cream to the nose and ears when in the sun.
What should I look out for at the beach?
Many dogs love to play on the beach but there are a couple of points to bear in mind when enjoying time there.
If your dog is a sand digger the sand may irritate your dog’s eyes. Saline can be used to gently wash any sand away. Sand digging can also cause your dog to have sore paws. Usually 24 hours of rest can help this, along with bathing in warm water. Applying paw wax to sore paws can also help.
Try to limit ingestion of sand and sea water as this can cause gastro-intestinal problems.
Like humans, animals should be protected from sun exposure, particularly if they are pink skinned or thin haired. Over-exposure to the sun can result in sun burn and ultimately skin cancers. Use a child-safe SPF 30 to 50 factor sun cream and apply it to your pet as per the label instructions for people.
What should I do if my pet has an insect sting?
Cats and dogs often fall victim to insect stings, simply because of their natural curiosity and predatory instincts. Most stings will simply cause pain and irritation, but multiple stings can be more serious, and some animals can have a severe allergic reaction.
If your pet is stung around the head and neck or receives stings to the throat if it has swallowed the insect, you should monitor them very closely and seek veterinary attention if at all worried.
In the case of a bee sting – first remove the sting by carefully brushing it away (being carefully not to squeeze the sting at all). Then apply a paste of bicarbonate of soda (made by mixing it with water) to neutralise the sting.
For a wasp sting – then vinegar can be applied to neutralise the effects.
Want to know more about Animal First Aid?
If you are interested in learning more about First Aid for pets, Davies Veterinary Specialists run Animal First Aid training sessions for Pet Owners. Click here to find out more and book your place at our next event.
For further advice on keeping pets cool in hot weather, click here to read ‘Davies Veterinary Specialists’ Guide on how to keep hot dogs cool’ Fact sheet.
We always recommend you should contact your vet if you have any concerns about your pet’s health.
Davies Veterinary Specialists, Manor Farm Business Park, Higham Gobion, Herts SG5 3HR 01582 883950
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