What a beauty of a weekend we have lined up weather-wise! Just as we aren’t quite used to the hotter temperatures and need to grab our sunblock and shades, our pets also need to be protected from the elements. If you were wearing a thick fur coat outside in the sun, you would be sweating in a few minutes. Unlike us, our cats and dogs lack the ability to perspire to cool themselves with the exception of sweat glands on their paw pads.
Panting is the main mechanism that a dog uses to keep cool – its open mouth allows moisture on the tongue to evaporate. The heavy breathing can also help to evaporate moisture from the larger surface area of the lungs. Cats have this ability as well.
Pets also cool themselves by dilating their blood vessels to dissipate heat away. This mechanism works to dispel heat after exercise and does not work well in hot temperatures.
Fur acts as insulation – it protects the body from the outside environment, both to keep the cold out in the winter and keep the heat out in the summer. However, in hot environments, once the heat does get in to the body, fur acts as a barrier that slows the ability of the heat to radiate away. Ask a veterinarian whether having your pet’s fur clipped is right for it. Certain breeds, such as Siberian Huskies, Pomeranians and Shetland Sheepdogs are double-coated and shaving their coats may actually make them more susceptible to sunburn. Pets that are sunburned are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer, especially if they have light-coloured skin and fur. Exposed skin areas, such as the tips of the ears and nose, are at increased risk of sunburn. Ask your vet for sunblock suggestions for your pet.
Structure of the coat on a double coated dog (Image created by Brook Wilkins)
Heat stroke happens to a pet when its body cannot get rid of heat fast enough. Check out our blog article that discusses tips to prevent it from happening to your pet.
It is super important that your pet has access to fresh water to drink. This will hopefully limit it’s consumption of water from stagnant puddles and other contaminated sources. You could also try misting your dog’s coat with water in a spray bottle. The moisture will evaporate and help to cool it.
Find some nice shade for your pets to enjoy our beautiful Ontario summer. Mitchell Veterinary Services wishes you a fun cool summer.
Recommended read: Keeping your pet safe in hot weather