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6 tips for keeping your pet safe during a heat wave

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Summertime may be synonymous with endless fun for the family, but it can also present a serious problem for pets.

Record high temperatures can cause your furry friend to experience life-threatening heatstroke, and even the warm-weather activities you do can cause distress to your pet.

Keep reading for tips on how to keep your pets happy, healthy, and safe all summer long:

Don’t cover your pet in human sunscreen or bug spray

“Do not apply any sunscreen or insect repellent product to your pet that is not labeled specifically for use on animals,” said Lori Bierbrier DVM, medical director of community medicine at ASPCA.

Yes, it’s true that most mammals are susceptible to sunburn and bug bites. But that doesn’t mean you should be covering your dog with the same stuff you use on yourself. Many sunscreens and insect repellents contain ingredients that are harmful if eaten.

Remember, your pet does not understand what these products are or why they’re used. If you choose to cover their skin with it, there’s a good chance they’ll want to investigate using their sense of smell or taste.

Bierbrier told INSIDER, “Ingestion of sunscreen products can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and lethargy, while misuse of insect repellent that contains DEET can lead to neurological problems.” In 2018, 6.2% of the phone calls to the ASPCA Poison Control Center were related to insecticides like bug spray.

Instead, look for a sunscreen or bug spray that is designed specifically for animal use. These usually don’t contain the same ingredients as human versions. However, be wary that some sprays that work for dogs may be toxic to cats.

Once you find the appropriate product, read the instructions and test it on a small patch of your pet’s skin before applying. This will allow you to check for allergic reactions.

If you have any concerns about your pet’s health in the heat, consult your veterinarian.

Always have plenty of water on hand

Keep them hydrated. iStock

Like humans, our pets are susceptible to dehydration if they don’t drink enough water.

If you’re going to be participating in outdoor activities like camping, it’s imperative that you always have water available for your pet to drink. Over the course of the day, dogs need to drink one half to one ounce of water for every pound of bodyweight they have. Don’t wait for your pet to appear thirsty or beg. Clean their water bowl daily so that it stays nice and fresh, and they’ll want to drink from it.

Never hike with your dog without ensuring you have water packed for them.

Be aware of the signs of heatstroke

Heatstroke is a life-threatening, medical emergency marked by an inability to cool down the body’s temperature. Since dogs do not have sweat glands dispersed throughout their body like humans, they regulate their temperature by panting. On the other hand, cats keep cool by using their own saliva and licking their body.

Both dogs and cats, along with rabbits, guinea pigs, and other rodents, are susceptible to developing heat stroke.

If left untreated, this condition can cause severe, potentially irreversible damage to your pet’s organs.

Some signs of heatstroke in dogs include seizures, stupor, and delirium-like behavior. Cats may show signs of heat-related distress through excessive grooming, weakness, or redness in their tongue.

If you notice any of these in your pet, immediately contact your vet. It could save its life.

Walk your dog during the evening

If the ground is too hot for your own bare feet, then it’s definitely too hot for your pets’ paws.

During the day, extremely high temperatures can cause the sidewalk temperature to reach triple digits. Some locations have reported sidewalk temperatures that were hot enough to cause second-degree burns. In addition, exercising your pet during a heatwave puts them at risk for developing dehydration and heatstroke.

Try and walk your pets during the evening to minimize these dangers. Another option may be providing them with booties, though not all pets may be receptive to this solution.

Go for an evening walk. Associated Press

When the temperature climbs high, bring them inside

Keeping cool during a heatwave can be especially hard on your pets. Exposure to high-temperature environments can quickly become a serious problem and lead to heatstroke. Sometimes it can happen within minutes of being in an extremely hot environment.

Remember, they can’t regulate temperatures the same way humans can, so it’s important that they limit their time in extremely hot environments.

This means if you’re going to be out at work or running errands, consider bringing them inside. And if your pet has to remain outside, make sure they have plenty of shade and water.

Supervise all water-related activities with your pet

One potentially tragic mistake pet owners might make is assuming their pet knows how to swim simply because they are an animal. But this is simply not the case.

Be wary of leaving your pets unsupervised near swimming pools, especially in your own backyard. A single tumble into the deep end can quickly turn into a tragedy if they don’t know how to swim and you aren’t at home.

If you’re bringing your pet around water for the first time, gradually ease them into it. Never throw any animal into any body of water against their will. Not only does this scare them, but it could be dangerous if they aren’t a strong swimmer.

And if you plan on taking them for a boat ride, be sure they’re wearing a life vest, too.

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