Assuming our true Okanagan summer ever arrives this year, here are some tips for keeping your pets happy and healthy as the temperature rises.
Sun and Heat
- Do NOT leave your pet unattended inside your vehicle even with the windows rolled down. The temperature in your vehicle can soar within only a few minutes. Heat exhaustion CAN kill your pet.
- Do NOT leave your dog in the back of your pickup truck. The metal can heat up and burn your dog’s paws.
- Always have water with you for your pet when you take them out into the sun. You can also give them ice cubes to chew on, but wait two hours after a meal to avoid bloating.
- Use watermelon, apple, banana, peanut butter, or even canned dog food to make a tasty frozen snack for your dog. Place a piece of fruit or scoop of peanut butter or canned dog food into an ice cube tray, mix with water, and place in your freezer.
- Do NOT shave your pet completely. Fur protects them from getting sunburned.
- Tie a wet or chilled bandana around your dog’s neck before taking it for a walk on a hot day.
- Protect your pet’s paws. They may get burned on sidewalks and sand. Use your hand to check how hot the surface is. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws.
- The ideal time to take your dog for a walk would be early morning or in the evening when the temperature is a little cooler.
- Be cautious if you have a snub nosed breed such as a Pug, Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apsos, Bulldog, Boxer, or Pekingese, as these breeds sometimes have difficulty maintaining a normal body temperature in hot weather.
- Regularly check your pet for signs of dehydration:
Pinch and pull the skin on the top of your pet’s neck and then let it go. The skin of a healthy, hydrated pet will flatten out immediately. For dehydrated pets, the skin will be less elastic, and it will take as long as several seconds to return to normal. If your pet is obese, you may not be able to properly use the pinch test.
- Check your pet’s gums. These should normally be smooth and wet to the touch. If the gums are dry and sticky, this indicates dehydration and a lack of fluids in the body.
Be on the lookout for symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Rapid breathing
- Heavy panting
- Hyperventilation (gasping for air)
- Excessive salivation
- Having a dazed look
- Weakness and inability to get up
- Moving slowly and being disoriented
- Loss of consciousness
*If your pet shows any of the above heat exhaustion symptoms, immediately take it to a shady ventilated area or air-conditioned room. Apply cool wet towels to the belly where skin is exposed, as well as the inner thighs and footpads. Do NOT use ice to cool your pet as this can cause decrease or loss of skin circulation and thus delays cooling. Never cover your pet with a wet blanket because the body heat needs to evaporate. Once you have started to cool your pet, offer some water (no ice cubes) but do NOT force it into mouth. Heat exhaustion can be fatal so immediately take your pet to your Veterinarian.
- Swimming is a great low impact activity for all dogs, especially those with arthritis. Always supervise your dog while swimming as they can get tired and may drown. In pools, your dog may find the edges slippery and not be able to climb out.
- Always equip your pet with a life jacket while boating. If your pet falls into the water they will float once they are too tired to swim, and the life jacket serves as a sturdy handle for you to hoist your pet up out of the water.
- Use a mosquito repellent that does NOT contain DEET, and one that says on the packaging it’s safe to use on pets. As pet safe mosquito repellent is hard to find, you may want to purchase some peppermint oil. A study by the Malaria Research Centre published in the Elsevier Science Journal Bioresource Technology in 1999 found that peppermint oil not only repels mosquitoes, but also kills their larvae. Rubbing a small amount of peppermint oil daily at the back of your pet’s neck – well out of licking range – is a safe alternative to insecticide products.
- Flies are more prevalent in the warmer months, and any injury to the skin or fecal matter stuck to a pet’s fur, can be a perfect place for flies to lay their eggs. In a short time, these eggs hatch and become maggots. Keeping your pet clean and treating any skin injuries is crucial in avoiding maggot infestations.