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With the uncharacteristically hot weather we have been enjoying, there are a few specific worries about helping pets cope with the sunshine that we aren’t usually lucky enough to have to worry about. But as Somerset sizzles under the sun, make sure that your pets are protected from the effects of the heat.
We rarely see cases of true sunburn in pets, but this doesn’t mean pets shouldn’t be protected against UV rays. Skin cancers are not uncommon in light-skinned pets, so applying sunscreens to lightly-haired areas is important. Areas most at risk include ears and noses – especially on white or light-coloured cats and dogs – and tummies on dogs that like to sunbathe.
Hopefully everyone knows by now not to leave dogs in cars on a hot day. It’s still easy to forget, though, just how quickly cars do heat up in the summer. This occurs even on days which seem slightly cooler or overcast. Sadly, dogs die every year after being left in the car, so if you are planning on a day out this summer, make sure your pets will be welcome at the other end, or leave them safely at home in the cool with a supply of fresh water.
However, in warm weather heatstroke can occur outside as well. Remember that your dog is wearing a fur coat that he can’t take off. In the heat of the day seek shade for your dogs (and yourself!) and make sure everyone has a plentiful supply of fresh water.
Be careful exercising in hot weather as well. Dogs’ only efficient means of heat exchange is by panting, as they do not sweat significantly. Exercising adds the heat produced by working muscles to the heat of the day, and dogs are often not able to dissipate this quickly enough and start to overheat. Distressingly, one of the first problems to develop is swelling of the tissues in the throat, meaning that dogs start to struggle to breathe. This is an emergency situation; if you have a means to cool the dog such as hosing them with cool water do so, but don’t waste time in getting them to the vets. Remember to call ahead so they can be prepared for your arrival! If a heatstroke is not treated rapidly, dogs can suffer seizures, bleeding disorders and multiple organ failure.
Draping a wet towel over pets with heats is not currently recommended; the towel just warms up very quickly and doesn’t contribute much to cooling the animal.
The dogs most at risk from this problem are the short-nosed or brachycephalic dogs: such as pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers and boxers. They often struggle with their breathing at the best of times; they certainly don’t cope well with the heat. Staffordshire Bull Terriers are at risk as well; they combine a lot of muscle mass with a relatively short nose. However, it can happen to any dog. Remember to take it easy when walking in this weather; keep walks to the cooler weather in the early morning or late evenings – much more enjoyable for dogs and owners!
Pavements can get sizzling hot in weather like this. Walking dogs on hot pavements can lead to painful burns on paw pads. If you can’t hold the back of your hand on the pavement for 10 seconds, it is too hot for your dog’s feet!
Lucy Fleming MRCVS