Sun Safety for Your Four-Legged Family Members

It might warm your heart to see your pet frolicking outdoors, but in the summer, you should worry about how the sun is warming its body. For cats and dogs, heat-related hazards are common, harmful, and sometimes lethal.

A particularly vicious hot-weather danger is heatstroke. When the body temperature of a dog reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit, the animal begins overheating — a situation that can quickly lead to dehydration and organ damage. When its body hits 109 degrees, heatstroke occurs. Within minutes, this condition can bring about ulcers, seizures, and kidney failure. And every summer, hundreds of pets die in this brutal manner. However, most of these tragic incidents are never reported to the proper authorities; thus, no concrete data are available on annual pet fatalities caused by heatstroke.

In any event, if your pet ever exhibits such heatstroke symptoms as uncontrolled panting, irregular heartbeat, rapid breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, discolored gums and tongue, lurching footsteps, fever, and glazed eyes, take it to the veterinarian at once.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to ensure that dogs and cats stay cool on hot days. Try to restrict their time outdoors to mornings and evenings. Spray your dog with a hose before you leave home. When you take an animal out in the heat, make sure that it’s walking on grass, and bring along a supply of cold water. Further, keep your dog out of its doghouse as that kind of shelter can be sweltering. And be aware that cooling vests and wraps for pets are highly effective products.

Many dogs — and some cats — are willing to jump into swimming pools. By all means, give your furry friend the opportunity to swim in your pool if it wants to, but don’t force it into the water. And rinse off your animal after a pool session to get rid of the chlorine and other chemicals. Also, make arrangements so that your pet can’t access your pool when you’re not around; on its own, it could easily drown. At the very least, it might drink some of the harmful water.

Above all, never leave an animal inside a car when it’s warm. If it’s, say, 85 degrees out, the temperature of a parked car’s interior can rise to more than 100 degrees in 10 minutes and to 120 degrees in 30 minutes — even if the windows are ajar.

Finally, sunbathing is a dangerous activity for pets. The University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna released a study in June 2014 discussing the negative effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays on animals. Those consequences include ferocious sunburns that cause pain, inflammation, and itching. And if an animal gets sunburned often enough, it can develop cancerous skin tumors. What’s more, dogs and cats with thin or lightly-colored fur coats face additional risk in terms of UV sunlight. For these reasons, you should routinely apply waterproof sunblock to your pet. This sunscreen needs to include zinc oxide and/or have a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30.