Fun in the sun: Summer safety tips for your pet
The dog days of summer are here! When balmy breezes and sunny skies beckon us outside we know how to prepare to avoid sunburn, heatstroke and bug bites, and it’s just as important to ensure that your pets are protected too. Here are some tips on keeping your pet happy and healthy all summer long.
Skin and Coat Care
Like winter, summer exposes your pet to more extreme elements. Bright sunlight, soaring temperatures and romps in nature can be harsh on their skin and coats.
A good rinse after a swim in salt or pool water helps to keep skin from becoming dry or irritated, and regular brushing removes burrs or anything else that gets stuck in the fur, preventing matting and knots. Ask for a recommendation from your local health food store for a natural pet shampoo that leaves out harsh and synthetic ingredients to gently clean their fur without stripping natural oils.
Essential fatty acids are important in your pet’s diet to help nourish the skin and coat, and research has shown that Omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation related to skin issues. Talk to your veterinarian about essential fatty acid supplements, if they are right for your pet and the proper dosage for your animal’s size, age, lifestyle and breed.
Pets are vulnerable to sun damage too! Breeds with thin coats (or hairless breeds), and heavily groomed animals are more exposed and are at greater risk to UV damage. It’s common for animals to shed their undercoat in the summer, leaving a thinner coat that acts as a protective sun and heat barrier without excessive bulk, but precautions should still to be taken.
Keep pets out of the sun when it’s at its highest and make sure shade is readily available during outings to protect their skin. Remember that if a surface is too hot for you to walk on – it’s too hot for your pet’s feet too. There are some sun lotions formulated specifically for pets available at your local health food retailer.
When temperatures rise, pets can quickly become dehydrated and overheated, which can be very dangerous when gone unnoticed. Older and overweight animals are more vulnerable, as are some breeds with shorter noses like boxers, pugs or Persian cats.
Some signs of pet heat exhaustion to look for are:
Rapid panting and/or heartbeat
Bright red gums and tongue
Lethargy and/or uncoordinated movement
To avoid overheating, limit walks and outside time to the cooler parts of the day. Leave them home on outings if you think there will be too much exposure to heat or sunlight, and never leave a pet in a car on a warm day. Even with the windows down, the temperature inside can quickly rise to dangerous temperatures. If your pet is showing signs of heat exhaustion, take immediate measures to cool them and contact your veterinarian.
Water, water, everywhere!
Ample hydration is crucial. Have several available bowls of fresh water around the house and yard and be sure to carry water and a portable pet bowl with you when your furry friend comes along. Cats don’t have as strong a thirst drive as dogs, so providing wet food, and even adding some water to it can help them consume more. Also, look out for puddles or open containers of dangerous solvents like antifreeze. Have them tightly capped and put away so thirsty pets don’t drink them.
Keep the Pests Away
Milder temperatures and increased humidity mean that pets are more susceptible to ticks and fleas, as their populations thrive over the summer months. Not only do these pests threaten pets with the irritation of bites, they can also be carried into the home.
Discourage dogs from going off-trail on nature walks and keep your lawn mown. Tick checks are important, as tick bites can potential lead to health issues or infection of the bite site. Check your animal every day and immediately remove any ticks that are affixed to the pet’s skin. Be vigilant to check in folds of skin behind forelegs and in between hind legs, as well as in and around ears, between toes and at the base of the tail.
There are both vet prescribed treatments and natural products that act as tick and flea repellent, but proceed with caution with essential oils, as some are harmful for animals. Work with a pet health professional to identify what is safe for your pet, and always dilute oils before using on or near pets.
Just like us, pets benefit from regular exercise. But your pet may have a challenging time keeping up with your summer activity, especially if they are older. Painful joints are common, especially among bigger dogs and certain breeds. Many pet owners turn to natural remedies like glucosamine to help with their pet’s joint pain, and essential fatty acids have been shown to help with mobility and health of joints of animals. Your veterinarian can provide the best information on joint products that are right for your pet, and dosages appropriate for their size, age and breed.
Help your pets get as much fun out of summer as you do! Visit your vet to discuss supplements and remedies and explore the shelves of your local health food retailer for pet-friendly natural health products. You can find your nearest store at chfa.ca.