Summer Safety: Making Sure Your Pet Enjoys Fun in the Sun

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The “dog days” of summer are here, and these especially hot days of the year can be full of fun for you and your pets—as long as precautions are followed to keep safe when out in the sun and the heat.

Dr. Kyoko Yoshida, a veterinarian and co-owner of Hudson Animal Hospital in NYC, has this to say about sun and heat protection for your pet: “Summer here in NY is wonderful, as long as you take the necessary precautions to keep your pet cool and safe.” Let’s take a look at some ways you can have a great time outside this summer and stay safe, even on the very hottest days.

One of the best ways to keep your pet safe in the heat is to simply avoid being outside with your pet when it’s too hot. On days when the temperature climbs into the 90s, try to plan your outdoor activities for the cooler parts of the day—the morning and the evening. That being said, we realize that staying in air conditioned places when it’s hot isn’t always possible! So here are some things you can do to keep your pet from getting overheated when you must be outside:

1) Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Make sure your dog or cat has plenty of fresh water—and offer more water than usual on hot days.

2) Make a cool space. Does the room your pet usually stays in get too hot? Is there air conditioning or a fan in that room? Make sure your pet’s living space can be cooled sufficiently.

3) Limit exercise. While regular exercise is great for your pet, strenuous exercise in the heat can be dangerous. Limit exercise on hot days and/or change your pet’s routine to include indoor exercise.

4) Know your pet’s health. Make sure you are aware of any special health conditions your dog or cat has that could be exacerbated by hot weather. Age and breed are both factors that can affect an animal’s ability to cool itself. Do some research and talk to a veterinarian about your pet’s possible risk factors.

5) Become familiar with heat-related warning signs. The ASPCA lists some to be aware of: “Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor, or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.” Any of these signs warrant an immediate visit to the vet.

Another thing to keep in mind is that both dogs and cats are susceptible to sunburn—the same UVA and UVB rays that we are concerned about for ourselves also negatively affect our pets. Did you know that dogs and cats can wear sunscreen? An effective sunscreen will block both UVA and UVB rays and should have an SPF of over 15. But there are some special considerations for applying sunscreen to your pet:

• Zinc oxide, a common ingredient in many sunscreens, is toxic for dogs.
• Salicylates, which are also found in many sunscreens, are toxic for cats.

Sunscreens chosen for pet use should not contain the above ingredients. There are some sunscreens that have been specifically formulated for pet use, and you can ask a vet which of these might be best to use for your pet.

If you have questions about your specific dog or cat breed, about which sunscreens you can use on your pet, or about your pet’s overall health, Dr. Yoshida advises that you contact your veterinarian to be sure to get the correct information: “There is a lot of incorrect information online regarding pet protection. We want to make sure people take care of their pets properly all year long.”

One final tip on pet sun protection—in addition to sunscreen, pets can wear sun protection shirts, hats, and sunglasses to prevent sunburn. Check at your favorite pet supply store or online for selection. Don’t let the heat prevent you from having a great time with your pet this summer; use these tips to have the best summer ever with your dog or cat!