When the temperature begins to climb in the Southland, don’t forget that your furry friends need some extra assistance to help them stay cool and healthy. Your companion animals are less efficient at cooling themselves than humans. Dogs and cats can only cool their bodies by perspiring from their nose and footpads and by panting. But panting very hot air only accelerates heatstroke. By taking some simple precautions, you can keep your companion animals happy and healthy when the temperature soars.
- Do not leave your companion animal alone in the car. Not only is it dangerous, it is now illegal in California. Senate Bill 1806 which became law January 1, 2007, says no animal may be left unattended in a vehicle under conditions that “endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.” Companion animal guardians who leave their animals unattended under dangerous conditions could face fines, jail time or both.
- Reserve playtime and walks for the cool of the early morning or evening, but never after a meal or when the weather is humid.
- When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog stand on hot asphalt. Paw pads can easily blister and burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum.
- If possible, keep your dog or cat inside in a cool part of the house,. Areas with tile floors are generally the coolest.
- Provide plenty of fresh water for all of your animals and move companion animal beds to shady areas, both indoors and out.
Be especially sensitive to senior and overweight cats and dogs in hot weather. Short muzzled dogs such as Bulldogs, Mastiffs, Pugs, Boston terriers, Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus, as well as those with heart or lung diseases, have more difficulty breathing during hot, humid days and should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
- Don’t shave your companion animals thinking that it will keep them cooler. Their fur protects them against sunburn and helps prevent overheating. Cats should be brushed often.
- When companion animals do go outside, protect against sunburn by rubbing hypo-allergenic sunscreen on sensitive areas like the belly and ear tips. Light colored noses or ears are especially susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. Do not apply any sunscreen to your companion animal that is not labeled specifically for use on animals.
- Be aware of the signs of heat stress in your companion animals which include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid pulse, unsteadiness, staggering gait, vomiting or a deep red or purple tongue.
If you do notice signs of heat stress, immediately:
Lower your companion animal’s body temperature by moving the animal to the shade and applying cool (not cold) water over its body to gradually lower body temperature. Apply ice packs or cold towels only to a companion animal’s head, neck and chest or have companion animals drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. This is a medical emergency,take your companion animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible.