Question: Can my pet get sunburned?
Answer: Yes! Your pet can be sunburned on any exposed skin, including their nose, ears, muzzle, eyelids, and belly. And, like people, burned pets can develop skin cancer. Pets with light-colored coats who have fair skin under their fur, pets with thin coats, and hairless breeds are also at higher sunburn and skin cancer risk. Sunscreen can protect your pet’s skin, but ensure the product is pet-friendly and does not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid, which can be toxic to pets if ingested.
Your pet can be burned by more than the sun—the pavement, especially an asphalt surface, can burn their paw pads. Before walking your dog, place your hand on the pavement. A surface that is too hot for you (i.e., you cannot keep your hand there comfortably for 10 seconds) is too hot for your dog’s paw pads. Walk them in a cooler time of day, on the grass, if necessary.
Q: Can I leave my pet in the car if I park in the shade?
A: Absolutely not. Never leave a pet in a parked vehicle. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the interior of a car parked in 70-degree weather can reach 100 degrees in only 20 minutes, and parking in the shade, or leaving the windows cracked does not help. If you are tempted to take your pet on a quick errand, remember how quickly the temperature inside a parked car can become dangerous, and leave your pet at home.
Q: How hot is too hot for my pet?
A: A temperature that you find uncomfortable will also feel uncomfortable for your pet. As well as the temperature, keep an eye on humidity levels before heading out for your daily walk, because high humidity is equally dangerous for pets. Pets can only pant to evaporate moisture and rid their body of excess heat, and can struggle to cool themselves in humid weather.
Q: How can I keep my pet cool?
A: Keep your pet cool when the temperatures soar with the following suggestions:
- Avoid the midday heat — Avoid extreme temperatures and high humidity by walking your pet in the early morning or late evening. If that is not feasible, keep walks short and avoid strenuous activity during the hottest times of day.
- Use a cooling mat or vest — Wearing a cooling vest can keep your pet cool by gradually taking excess body heat through evaporation. Cooling mats are pressure-activated to absorb a pet’s body heat and can provide relief for several hours.
- Play indoors — Some days are too hot to spend any time outdoors, but you can still exercise your pet physically and mentally in air-conditioned comfort. Games like hide and seek and fetch will get your pet moving and thinking, and interactive toys and food puzzles will keep them entertained indoors.
- Keep them hydrated — Provide your pet with plenty of fresh water at home, and extra water when they are outside.
- Make cool treats — Keep your pet hydrated with more than a full water bowl—freeze water-rich foods in ice cube trays for a special treat. These fruits and vegetables make delicious dog-safe “pupsicles:”
- Sweet potatoes
Q: How can I tell if my pet is overheated?
A: Any pet can suffer heatstroke, but some are at a greater risk, including:
- Older pets — Risk increases with age, and pets older than 12 years of age are more vulnerable to overheating.
- Overweight pets — Overweight pets have extra fat layers that make cooling down more difficult.
- Brachycephalic pets — Flat-nosed (i.e., brachycephalic) dog breeds, such as bulldogs, boxers, and pugs, struggle with heat regulation, and are less efficient at self-cooling through panting.
Heatstroke can lead to organ failure and cardiac arrest, and quick action is essential to avoid long-term complications, or death. Take your pet immediately to your veterinarian or the nearest emergency clinic if they are showing any of the following common heatstroke signs:
- Excessive drooling
- Red gums
- Warm, dry skin
- Rapid breathing and heart rate
- Lethargy and weakness
- Staring, or a dull expression
We hope you and your pet stay cool this summer, but our hospital team is always available in case of a heat-related emergency. If you have questions about summer pet heat safety, or you suspect your pet is overheated, contact our Emerald Animal Hospital team.