Hot dog! It’s summer time! Summer plans, bar-b-ques, good times and baseball are all in full swing, and for most of us, the regular routine activities of life must continue as well. Despite the heat, healthy living enthusiasts can be found walking, running and biking as faithfully committed as they do throughout the rest of the year, but with a little added precaution. Living in the Arizona desert, heat safety education is constantly being promoted to protect people from emergencies like heat stroke and dehydration. These situations can escalate very quickly and can become fatal to even the most fit and healthy. We understand the importance of water intake, and we pay attention to which hours of the day are safer for exercise, play and laborious physical activity. We even adhere to heat advisory warnings for temperatures that are considered unsafe without the proper precautions. But what is considered safe for our furbabies?
What do I need to know to protect my furbabies in the summer heat?
Most of the conversations we hear about pet safety in the heat have to do with concern for the pads of their feet burning on hot surfaces, or the dangers of leaving them in a hot car. While this is incredibly dangerous- especially here in the desert, many people are unaware of other heat dangers. There seems to be a misconception that our furbabies have a similar tolerance for heat as we do, but so many loving pet owners don’t realize the risk (and the misery) they are unintentionally putting their four legged companions through.
How does my dog regulate his body temperature?
Humans sweat to cool off and because of this, we are able to tolerate not only being in the heat, but we can also tolerate a fair amount of physical activity in the heat, as long as we stay hydrated. Dogs, however do not sweat. They pant in order to cool down by circulating air through their snout, but even among dogs, not all breeds are as effective at cooling down as others. Dogs with shorter snouts are unable to cool down as well as those with longer snouts. So while exercise and playtime is vitally important to the health of our dogs, it can be dangerous for them in warm weather, and even more risky if they are a breed with a shorter snout and are unable to cool down.
How can I keep physical activity safe for my dog in the heat?
You may be able to run your dog for miles in cool weather, and you yourself may be able to tolerate running in weather upwards of 100 degrees, but for dogs, temperatures as mild as 85 degrees can be a problem if they aren’t able to cool down, or if they don’t have access to a source of water to drink and get their bodies wet. Young puppies, older dogs and overweight dogs are considered at risk and need to be watched for signs of heat exhaustion. Humidity level is also a very important contributing factor so even if the outside temp is in the low 80s, a high humidity level can make the temperature feel like it’s in the upper 90s. In these situations it’s very important to pay attention to the behavior of your furbaby and err on the side of safety. When it’s hotter than 85 degrees, try to choose water activities to exercise your dog. If you still feel the need to walk them, don’t go very far so that you can return home quickly if they get too hot. Carry a spray bottle to help cool them (and yourself) down and always make sure your dog has water to drink even if you are just sitting in the heat.
How does my cat regulate his body temperature?
While you don’t typically see anyone walking a cat, (I know there are always exceptions) it’s important to note that they can also be at risk if they are left in the heat and are unable to cool down. Just like dogs, cats don’t sweat either, but their cooling process is actually very similar to the process that sweating works to cool down humans. Cats cool down by licking their fur and the evaporation process of their wet coat cools them down. Cats don’t pant to cool down like dogs do, but a cat will pant if they are in heat distress. Unfortunately, once they reach this point they are already in danger and likely require immediate medical attention.
Summer is a great time for outdoor sports, fun and family time. There are lots of fun things to do to beat the heat and many people enjoy bringing their pets along to enjoy the fun. Just make sure that everyone in the family stays safe in the heat!