Summer’s warm weather is wonderful, but sometimes it is just too hot. Not only is that uncomfortable, it can pose dangerous health risks for cats and dogs as well as humans. Let’s keep those pets cool and safe this summer!
Self-help options are limited
We all know that dogs and cats don’t perspire to release body heat, as humans do. While that’s generally true, they do sweat between the pads of their paws. As you can imagine, however, that has limited value. Both dogs and cats pant, though in cats panting is more often a sign of stress than overheating. Cats, in particular, groom themselves to cool off as the moisture from their tongue evaporates. (You can simulate that, by stroking your pet with a damp cloth.)
Beyond that, our pets are at the mercy of the sun and the temperature. Experts agree that the single-best step you can take to help your pooch or kitty stay cool is to keep them out of the sun. If your yard doesn’t have suitable tree shade, provide a well-ventilated dog house, or set up a large umbrella or beach tent for them.
Pets that become over-heated are at risk of sunstroke, which if untreated, can lead to serious organ failure or death. Dogs and cats can develop also heat rash or become sunburned – something we don’t often think about.
Here are 7 products and tips you can use to help your furry friend keep his cool, no matter the temperature. Note that many products promoted for dogs come in very small sizes, so they will fit your kitty as well.
- Hydration is critical, so make sure your pet has ample water available, in the house and outside.
- Does your dog like water? A child’s wading pool is ideal. If you bribe him with treats, he may even let you dip your toes, too. Of course, you and your water-loving canine may be lucky enough to splash around in the “real thing” – a nearby river, lake, or at the beach. In that case, don’t forget that water safety is as important as sun protection.
- Elevate their bed, indoors and outside. These simple devices suspend your pet about 8” above the floor or ground, to provide all-around cooling air flow. The hammock-like suspension can be more comfortable for pets with stiff joints or arthritis, too.
- Gel pad cooling mats beat the heck out of flopping out on the hard tiled floor in your house. Pets can use them outdoors, too. And if you’re planning a lengthy car ride, a cooling mat on the car seat or in their crate will be welcome. (Note: if your pet will be taking a trip by air, you cannot put a cooling mat inside their travel crate.)
Also note that these products are specifically designed for animals. Do not use store-bought gel packs, though, because your pup or kitty could easily chew or rip one open with their nails.
- Cooling vests such as Ruffwear’s Swamp Cooler are a great choice for outdoor adventures. The garment’s outer layer reflects heat. Inside, it stores water, cooling your canine as the water evaporates. When the water is gone, you simply refill. Top quality vests work with all types of harnesses.
- Cooling collars and bandannas are similar to vests, but they cool only the neck and shoulders. For shorter adventures or not-so-hot days, they can be an easy, effective alternative. They work even on dogs with thick coats.
- Apply sunscreen to protect your pet from sunburn. Animals with short or light-colored fur and pink skin are at greatest risk. Noses, ears, tummies, and the groin area rea at greatest risk. Use a high-SPF product that provides broad spectrum (both UVA and UVB protection. Do NOT use anything that contains zinc oxide, because that’s toxic to dogs. For cats, do NOT use anything that contains salicylates, which is highly poisonous to felines.
Finally, yet another reminder that you should never – NEVER – leave pets in the car on a warm day, let alone a hot one. Even with windows open, the temperature inside a car can shoot up shockingly in just a few minutes. Summer is supposed to be fun. Losing your beloved pet to an avoidable mistake would be unthinkable.