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Dr. Hilary Quinn: Some Cool Ideas for Keeping Pets Safe During Summer Heat | Four-Legged Friends and More

There is nothing quite like a heat wave that inspires us to grab a towel and a good book, and head to the beach. Or perhaps the sunshine and warm air is your cue to slip on your sneakers and make for the hills.

Whether it’s hiking, tide-pooling, cycling, or surfing, it’s important to ensure that you are staying hydrated, protected from the sun, and able to cool off when the temperature is soaring.

Often times, we bring our pets with us when we are out enjoying the great outdoors. Heat-related illnesses and injuries spike during the summer, and can range from minor inconveniences to life-threatening crises.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bring Buddy along when you go for a run, or that Miss Beans shouldn’t be allowed outdoors ever again. With forethought, and basic preparation, your pets can accompany you on many summer adventures.

Hiking: Plan to hike during the cooler hours of the day, such as morning or early evening when the sun is lower and the temperatures aren’t peaking. Choose trails that offer shade coverage and places to rest, especially if you and your pet aren’t accustomed to strenuous physical activity.

A trail where your dog can dip her paws in water is always nice, but be sure that her Leptospirosis vaccine is up to date so that she doesn’t get sick.

For longer hikes, or trails where shade is limited, consider packing booties to protect paws. We vets see blistered paws throughout the summer, which is a very painful condition.

Lastly, bring ample fresh water for you and your dog. You can purchase water bottles with bowls attached, or a collapsible bowl that is easily stowed in a hiking backpack.

Beach-going: Some of my patients are regular beach goers, but for others it’s a rare treat. If your dog isn’t a regular beach bunny, she may attempt to drink sea water. This causes quite impressive diarrhea, which makes for a very unpleasant mess.

To prevent sea water ingestion, pack plenty of water for hydrating after the “beach zoomies.”

As you likely know, our local beaches have natural tar seepage. Tar is best removed with oil, but remember that dogs lick their paws, so be sure to use something that isn’t toxic if ingested, such as canola oil. I also advise my clients to avoid the sloughs because of the diseases/water contaminants.

sun bathing: I know it may sound ridiculous to include this, but actually many animals love to sunbathe. Dogs and cats that have long-term exposure to the sun’s damaging rays can develop skin cancer.

Lightly haired dogs, such as pit bulls and bull terriers, can develop hemangiosarcomas, which look like blood blisters on their tummies, and can metastasize, or spread.

White cats who are allowed outdoors frequently develop disfiguring and life-threatening squamous cell carcinomas on their ears, or noses.

For this reason, I recommend that white cats remain indoors only, and that dogs who sunbathe wear sunscreen daily or wear a sun-suit, which can be purchased online.

Errands: This is a trick category! You should absolutely not bring your dog or cat in the car with you while you do errands. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside your car can rise by 30 degrees in a mere 20 minutes. Leave Milo and Otis at home while you shop.

Special note on brachycephalic dogs: I absolutely adore the smooshy-faced good looks of the French bulldog, Boston terrier, pug, or English bulldog. But if you are the proud owner of one of these little four-legged clowns, please keep in mind that they have a special proclivity to heat stroke.

Due to their short noses and small airways, they aren’t able to cool down effectively, despite heavy panting. Physical activity should be strictly limited in warm weather with these breeds.

Summer is here and many adventures await you and your families. If you have any concerns about what is safe for your pet during these “dog days” of summer, don’t hesitate to reach out to your vet.

With adequate preparation and precaution, your pets can partake in the summer fun as well.

Dr. Hilary Quinn is a small animal veterinarian in Santa Barbara. She owns and operates Wilder Animal Hospital, and shares her own home with three humans (her husband and two kids) as well as two rowdy dogs, a very calm kitty, two fish, and six chickens. Contact her at [email protected]

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