Protecting your Pet from the Sun

With the arrival of spring, soon to be summer, there is also the arrival of hotter days and stronger UV rays.   This means needing to be more aware of our pet’s needs as we enjoy this time of year together.   The unfortunate truth is pet’s can get sunburned and they can develop skin cancer – animals with super short coats, no coat or very thin coats are most prone to this problem.  Tips of ears, if not well furred and some noses are also in need of protection.  Animals also run the risk of heatstroke if they are unable to cool down.

You can apply sunscreen to the areas of your pet needing protection, however be very cautious – although there are some pet sunscreens on the market, be sure to read the label thoroughly, some are still toxic if the pet ingests it.  You can apply children’s or babies formula sunscreen, again with caution, prevent your pet from licking the area while it absorbs, use it sparingly and only apply in areas that are absolutely necessary.

Pets don’t sweat to cool down like we do.  Dogs pant – removing excess heat from the body and bringing in cool air – and for most dogs they sweat through the pads of their feet (although northern breeds do not).  Cats on the other hand do not pant, they only sweat through the pads of their feet to cool down and rely on their ability to move to a cooler location.  If your cat is panting this is a VERY BAD sign!  Contact us immediately.

Be sure to provide plenty of fresh water.  If you are heading out for a walk or run, take a bottle with you and a travel bowl or other dispenser that allows your dog to have a drink.  If they are spending anytime out in your yard be sure as well that they have a big dish of water that is always full.  If you have a pet that likes to knock the dish over, pick it up, or spill it in anyway, consider getting a non-tip bowl or a dish that attaches to the side of their doghouse, your house or deck so they can not dump the water out.  As long as you don’t have a dog that likes to eat rocks and is tall enough to drink from the container you can also get a large bucket and put a layer of heavier rocks in the bottom, then fill with water.  The weight will help prevent them from tipping it over or prevent the wind from blowing it over as well.

running dogs

Don’t exercise your pet during the heat of day.  Avoid heading out for that daily walk or run between the hours of 10am – 4pm.  This is the time of day when the sun and UV rays are at their strongest.  Even when heading out in the morning or evening, be cautious of how hot the day or night had been.  The asphalt could be very warm and constant contact could potentially burn the pads of pet’s feet, plus the heat emitted from the asphalt can cause your pet to become even warmer than just having the sun on their back.

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It is true that some animals enjoy basking in the sun – it is why it is our Photo Contest Theme this year, however, it is still important, especially for animals that spend any length of time outside, to have full access to shaded areas.  The more shade, the better!  If you don’t have a well shaded yard, consider building an appropriate doghouse or installing a cover or screen somewhere that allows your pet to get out of the heat of the sun.  Often dogs will lay on cool surfaces like grass, dirt or concrete when it is in the shade.  All these surfaces against their belly help to keep them cool.

Many dogs love water.  Water is not only good to ingest, it is great to lay in.  Providing your dog with a kiddie pool in a shaded area is also a great way for them to cool off.  If you don’t have a pool for them to soak in and want to cool them off with the garden hose, there are a couple things to remember – do not soak their entire body.  By soaking your dog’s back it can actually heat them further because the warmth of the sun will be drying the water causing them to be absorbing that heat.  Instead only soak your dog’s feet, belly, groin and under the limbs.  If you think of it this way – if you put a small amount of water into a kiddie pool for your dog to lay in so that when they lay down only their underside gets wet – that is exactly what you want.

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Ultimately when it comes to keeping your pet safe and healthy during the heat of summer, the same logic applies to their care as it does to ours – limit time in the sun during the highest heat of the day, provide plenty of water and be aware that even on windy or partly cloudy days, the sun is still just as strong.  If you have any concerns about how your pet is doing after spending time outdoors, please contact us, sunburn and dehydration can be very serious problems and heatstroke can become deadly very quickly without treatment.

To learn more on the primary care you can give, if ever needed, consider taking our Pet First Aid Course, prepare yourself with all the knowledge you need to keep your pet safe until you can contact us or get your pet in to the clinic.

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