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Keep Pets Safe During Dog Days of Summer

Help pets beat the heat and prevent injury or illness.

These dogs were left in the hot summer sun without access to adequate shelter or water source in the backyard of an Arlington residence.

These dogs were left in the hot summer sun without access to adequate shelter or water source in the backyard of an Arlington residence.

— The dog days of summer are officially here and while yes, the phrase refers to unbearable hot and humid weather, at the Animal League of Arlington (AWLA) it is an eventful season of responding to pets in peril.

“In the last six weeks we have responded to 31 calls of animals left in hot cars or outside without access to adequate shelter or water source, said Alice Burton, chief animal officer at AWLA. “We have saved two animals, on the verge of danger, from hot cars.”

Sweltering sun and summer time fun can create situations that compromise a pet’s health and safety. Animals can suffer heat stroke, brain damage or death if left in the heat, but with a little planning and forethought pets can remain cool and unharmed. Here is what you need to know to protect your pet:

  • Never leave pets in a car on a hot day. Even if windows are cracked it can be fatal. The interior temp can rise by 19 degrees in as little as five minutes. On a hot day this can cause your animal heat stroke, brain damage or death. Remember the 70/40 rule. If the temp outside is above 70 degrees or below 40 degrees it is unsafe to leave your pet in the car.

“If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat, remove them from the heat and seek veterinary care as soon as possible.”

— Christine Cottey, DVM and veterinary director at AWLA

  • Know the warning signs. Early signs of heat stress include — heavy panting, dry or bright red gums, drooling, weakness or collapse. “If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat, remove them from the heat and seek veterinary care as soon as possible,” says Christine Cottey, DVM and veterinary director at AWLA. “Placing your pet in cold water can contribute to massive organ failure and draping damp, cool towels over his body can constrict vessels and lead to an ever more elevated core body temperature.”

  • Exercise with caution. Do not walk your dog during the day’s highest heat and humidity, which is usually between 1-4 p.m. Not only can their body temperature rise quickly, but hot asphalt can hurt their sensitive paws. This is especially important for dogs with short snouts, such as bulldogs and pugs, who cannot pant as efficiently in humid weather due to their narrowed nostrils and windpipes.

  • Protect delicate skin. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in dogs and second most common in cats. Even though fur shields some of the sun, you should apply a pet-specific sun block every three to four hours to the least hair-covered areas (ears, around eyes, nose).

  • Keep coats short, not shaved. “Longer coats can help to prevent sunburn,” Dr. Cottey explains.

  • Send parasites packing. Heartworms, transmitted by mosquitoes, attack the lungs and heart of an animal and can be fatal. Hookworms can enter through the pads of pet’s paws and cause gastrointestinal problems. These parasites are more prevalent in the summer, so be sure to have your pet on a heartworm and hookworm preventative, available by prescription through your veterinarian.

To learn more about AWLA’s community services, programs, or the diverse selection of companion animals including cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, and hamsters, visit www.awla.org or download the free Arlington Pets App.