It appears that we will be subjected to repeated heat waves this year. Summers can be excruciating, and most of us would rather flee to the comfort of our air conditioners. It is no different for our pets, and it’s better to be prepared to take care of them.
Dogs and cats are at the risk of getting a heatstroke when the temperature rises. And they need not always be outdoors to suffer from it. Even being indoors, in a closed space, without adequate ventilation is enough to bring on a heatstroke. This is because dogs and cats don’t sweat through their skin like humans do. Panting, and sweating through the paws are two ways they regulate their body temperature. Pay particular attention to flat faced breeds like Pugs, Persian cats, Shih Tzus, Boxers, as they find it difficult to pant and regulate their body temperature efficiently. As a result, they are at a higher risk of heatstroke. In case your pet is obese, it further increases the risk. Therefore, keep your pets indoors with good ventilation while the sun is at its harshest.
During the peak of the summer, we encounter a lot of pets with heatstroke. They frequently arrive at the clinic unconscious, with a body temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit, which is higher than their normal temperature of 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit. This can prove to be lethal. As a result, it's critical to recognize signs of heatstroke in pets such as panting and drooling excessively and showing indications of disorientation or vomiting. Before rushing them to your veterinarian, cover them with a cold, wet towel and transport them to a cooler location as soon as possible.
Change their stroll times to early morning and late afternoon, that is before the sun rises and after it sets. Swimming can be a summer activity for breeds that can swim such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers. Like with human children, never leave your pet alone in a parked car since the temperature inside the car rises very quickly. If you're traveling with your pet, ensure to carry a towel and plenty of water with you.
There are other things to consider as well. Walking on heated asphalt can cause paw burns in dogs. Always place your palm on the pavement for 15 to 20 seconds to see whether it is too hot. Only take your dog for a walk if the weather is pleasant. There are doggie shoes available to help protect the paws from paw burn. However, since dogs sweat through their paws, these shoes can cause fungal infections if basic cleanliness is not maintained. Also avoid putting any additional clothing on your pet such as T-shirts.
There is a frequent misconception among pet owners that shaving the pet's fur completely will help them cope with the heat. We often encounter completely fur-less pets who suffer from sunburns as a consequence of being shaved. Your pet's body is covered in fur to protect them from the elements. It helps them cope with the heat by trapping cool air.
Shaving them completely can result in rashes, infections, and emotional distress. It is possible to ensure good grooming practices without shaving them down to their skin. If you have a very furry pet, you must leave at least an inch of fur on its body even if you choose to give a haircut. In the case of dogs with double coated fur, brushing their fur regularly helps them shed their undercoat more effectively.
That being said, tick and flea season is upon us and so parasite management is as vital as appropriate grooming. Ensure your dogs don’t frolic in grassy places. Make it a practice to check their paws, under their tail and behind their ears when they come home from a walk. This is where you will find these insects on your pet, if any. There are tick and flea preventive medication available in the form of sprays, powders, collars, shampoos, spot-ons and even tablets. However, you must consult with your veterinarian to see what will be most effective.
Pets tend to show low appetite in this weather, so you can experiment with different meal times. Try feeding them during the cooler hours of the day. Also, make sure the food is not kept out for too long, as it may get spoilt. This may cause stomach troubles for your pet. Keep them hydrated by including foods that have a lot of water like watermelon, muskmelon, etc, after deseeding them. Mangoes, everyone's favourite summer fruit, can be fed to pets as well. However, there is a catch.
Every year, I perform at least two surgeries to remove mango kernels that get lodged in the intestines after being ingested. When sharing mangoes with your pet, ensure you give the fleshy part and not with the kernel.
Popsicles made from fruit pulp and peanut butter can be a fun summer treat that you could experiment with. You can offer your pets ice cubes some times to help them beat the heat. However, do not feed them ice cream that is meant for human consumption. Instead, you can try fruit pulp mixed with yogurt can be frozen to make pet-friendly ice cream.
The heatwave may make this summer difficult for us and our dogs, but with a little care and some effort, we could make it a joyful time.
Dr Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai, who loves to play the piano in her free time and is ruled by her whimsical cat, Catbury, at home.