pet news

MAY 27, 2015

Summer Fun:  Protecting your pet from the season’s hazards

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dog pantingAs summertime approaches and the sun’s rays become more and more intense, people tend to start sweating more and wearing fewer clothes.  While your pets may be stuck with their fur coats year-round, there are things that you can do to get them ready for the impending heat.

Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences explains that heat stroke in pets is both dangerous and preventable.

“With heat stroke an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure,” states Stickney. “The number one rule is to never leave your pet in your car, even with your window cracked.  It doesn’t take a long time or a particularly hot temperature for a pet to die in a parked car.”

If you have an outside dog or you play with your dog outside, there are many things you can do to make sure your pet is cool and comfortable.

First you need to assess your pet’s surroundings.  If you must keep your pet outside make sure they have plenty of water and shade.

“Cold water is best if possible.  There are devices that attach to the faucet to automatically fill your pet’s water bowl.  These are nice because they keep the water fresh, cool and continuous,” notes Stickney. “However, if you do get one of these devices, just make sure you check it regularly to make sure it is working properly.”

If you have an exceptionally hairy dog it is also time to cut their hair and shave them down for the summer.

“It is actually a good idea to cut your dogs hair, not only for comfort from the heat, but also because dogs with thick wooly hair are prone to skin infections.  Shaving the fur down lets the skin breathe and reduces the occurrences of these infections,” explains Stickney.

In order to acclimate your pet to the summer heat, Stickney suggests introducing them to the weather slowly.

“If you start taking them outside a little longer each day, it will work them into the heat gradually and help to reduce any negative effects of the weather,” says Stickney.

While you may take every precaution in the world, it is still possible for your pet to get overheated.  If your dog is standing and panting then take a break and get out of the sun.

“In order to cool your dog down further you can hose them down.  This cools them off really quickly,” advises Stickney. “Another thing that helps is to put rubbing alcohol on the pads of their feet.”

If your pet doesn’t want to move, is falling over or having a seizure then it probably has heat stroke and it is time to get them to the veterinarian as quick as possible.

“Even if you think you have it under control it is imperative that you get them to the veterinarian,” states Stickney. “Heat stroke can cause internal injury so it is necessary that you nip it in the bud.”

As the weather gets warmer bugs come out in numbers as well so it is important to make sure that your yard and your animals are guarded against these insects.

“It’s strongly recommended that you have your pets on heart worm and flea and tick prevention year-round, but if they are not on them already, it is definitely time to do that now,” suggests Stickney. “This year looks to be an exceptionally bad year for fleas and ticks and so you need to protect both your pets and yourselves from these pests.”

Just as pets can suffer from heat stroke like their owners, they can also suffer from sun burns as well.  Although their fur protects them from a good deal of the sun’s harmful rays, there are areas that are exposed.

“Animals are susceptible to sun burns on any area where fur is particularly thin or where there is no skin pigment, like dogs with pink noses,” notes Stickney. “I would recommend a sun screen that is specifically for pets.  These are formulated to be safe if the pet licks them off and are available at any pet store.”

Although summer time does require a little preparation for both you and your pet, it is a good time to get out and enjoy each other’s company. If you are careful to protect your furry friend from the hazards of the season then you can fun in the sun together all summer long.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at  Suggestions for future topics may be directed to