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Sun Safety and Heat Awareness for Pets

This is National Sun Safe Week, celebrated the week before Memorial Day as we begin to head out into the sun after a season of cooler weather. Because our entrance into summer brings along with it longer, sunnier days and warmer temperatures, this places us and our pets outside more often and for longer periods. We need skin protection from harmful UV rays and hydration while in the heat and so do our pets! Sit & Stay Pet Care Services is using this week’s blog to focus on what you can do for your pets to help them during this time.

Did you know dogs and cats do not sweat through their skin as humans do in order to cool down? Cats cool themselves by licking their coat which in turn cools them down as their saliva evaporates. Dogs on the other hand pant to stay cool. If a cat is panting in the heat, it is a more severe reaction and seeking medical attention should be considered. If a dog is excessively licking itself in the car, it has begun to overheat. Because overheating can cause death or impair vital organs, it is imperative that we aid in keeping them cooled and hydrated during the warmer months.

One area where we can help our dogs is on the ground. When walking your dog, are they strolling leisurely or are they prancing more than usual? If the back of your hand cannot sustain contact on the sidewalk for seven seconds or longer without pain, then the ground is too hot for your dog’s paws and can cause burns to their paw pads. It is recommended that you keep them in shaded areas, on the grass, or do not walk them during peak sun hours. There are shoes that can be purchased for your dog’s paws, but many dogs take awhile to get used to wearing them or may reject wearing them entirely.

It’s often debated whether you should shave your cat’s coat during summer. An expert in comparative animal exercise physiology and thermoregulation at University of California Davis was quoted by Mental Floss to say, “Fur acts as a thermal regulator to slow down the process of heat absorption.” So while that lion cut looks adorable on your furbaby, their coat actually protects their sensitive skin from the sun and helps to reduce the rate of dehydration - you may need to rethink that cut.

Sunburns are another important factor to sun safety. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs that are a high risk to sunburns are those with white or light-pigmented noses and eyelids, or hairless breeds. Breeds that are specifically sensitive are Collies, Australian Sheepdogs, Dalmatians, Bulldogs, and Whippets. Any dog who lies in the sun or on concrete is also at risk. There are good products on the market to help protect sensitive noses and skin. “My Dog Nose It!” makes a salve for noses and faces, and Warren London makes a natural-ingredient spray sunscreen. Most products need to be reapplied after two hours or after water play.

According to an ASPCA article, thousands of animals die in cars every year due to heat stroke and suffocation, even with the windows cracked. Heat stroke is a very serious condition and can kill your pet in just 15 minutes, or cause serious damage to their brain or internal organs. Read more here about what causes heat stroke and how to recognize symptoms. The Florida Good Samaritan Act allows you to break into a car if you see an animal in need under but only under certain circumstances. Read here for more details on what legal action you can take. Once you’ve removed the animal from a car, the first thing is to put them in the shade, but DO NOT give them anything to drink. The goal is to reduce their body temperature gradually, using a room temperature water-soaked towel and placing it onto their torso. You can also moisten the tips of their paws and ears to help cool them down. They will need to be rehydrated so they will need immediate medical assistance.

May is also National Skin Cancer Awareness Month which logically connects with sun safety week as we are wrapping up the month. Both malignant melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma are cancers that can be caused by sun exposure, with malignant melanoma being the predominant one. Squamous cell carcinoma is rare in dogs, with Dalmatian, Bull Terrier, and Beagle being the most susceptible breeds. Malignant melanoma is the most serious of cancers, however some melanoma growths can be benign. It is most often associated with sun exposure and light-colored fur. Breeds that are most prone to melanoma are certain Terriers, Retrievers, Boxers, Poodles, and Spaniels.

White cats are susceptible to squamous cell carcinoma predominately on the tips of their ears, nose, and eyelids, with this being the most common form of cancer in cats. Any cat who receives a lot of sun exposure is at risk, but the types and breeds of cats most likely to develop cancer are hairless cats, those with white or light-colored fur, cats with thin coats, or older cats. For both cats and dogs, if you see any sores in sensitive areas that do not heal, seeking medical advice is highly recommended.

It is important to remember that we are custodians of fur babies who can only regulate their environment to a certain degree. Keeping a fan or AC on during hotter months is one way to help keep their body temperature where it is supposed to be. Placing ice cubes in water bowls can also help cool your pets, as well as keeping them hydrated. Providing adequate shade and fresh water outside will aid in their safety. Checking on them frequently so they don’t lay in the sun for too long or on hot surfaces can prevent sunburns and cancer. Investigating products that may be useful to your pet can help you get your pet through the scorching months ahead! Enjoy your summer and play safe!

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