How to keep your pet safe and healthy this summer

Courtesy of FlickrCC/Tinto Author: Canadian Living Credits: Courtesy of FlickrCC/Tinto


How to keep your pet safe and healthy this summer

Furry pets get hot during the summerit's inevitable. That means a hot, parked car is the last place they should be. The Ontario Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) and its No Hot Pets campaign reminds pet owners of the dangers of leaving pets unattended in cars over the hot summer months.

Since launching the campaign in 2012, the OSPCA has seen an increase in the number of calls they receive about pets locked in cars. That might seem like folks aren't getting the message, but those numbers are actually promising: More people know what to do when they find a hot animal in distress. In 2014 alone, 11,000 pet owners took the pledge to keep their animal companions at home on hot summer days. Today, the award-winning campaign runs nationwide and has a reach of millions.

OSPCA investigator Lynn Michaud says that parking in the shade and cracking the windows won't help keep your pet safe. "With an outside temperature of 24 C, a car's temperature can rise to 38 C within ten minutes," she explains. "There's a slight delay with cracked windows, but not enough." So, in other words, take your pet on a quick car ride to the park, but if you're running errands, leave it at home.

Don't leave your pet in the car
Besides the obvious danger of your furry friend getting heat stroke, keeping animals cooped up in hot cars may result in various charges and fines for pet owners. "We don't believe people do it intentionally," says Michaud. "We fully appreciate that people want to spend more time with their pets, but you never know if something will distract you." For example, you might think you need to stop for a few minutes on an errand, but your errand may take longer than expected.

Scott Mathison, a veterinarian at Toronto's Queen West Animal Hospital is well versed on the dangers of dogs becoming overheated. "Dogs can develop heat stroke within minutes," he says. And heat stroke doesn't just occur inside a hot car-it can happen outside, too. So when the mercury rises, don't leave your pooch outside for too long. "Dogs should have a break in the shade after 20 minutes of direct sunlight," says Mathison. He adds that it's always good idea to carry a mobile water container for your pet. Also, consider sunscreen for dogs that have light-coloured coats. If you can't find any at your local pet shop, look for human sunscreen that doesn't have zinc oxide, which is toxic for animals. Lastly, Mathison advises that pet owners should pay attention to the colour of their dogs; furry friends with darker coats absorb more heat.

Pay attention to your pet's needs
The best way to keep dogs healthy on summer days is to be aware of their needs. Dogs can't sweat to expel heat; they cool off by panting instead. Therefore, retire the muzzle when it's hot. In addition, dogs with short snouts, like pugs, and extra-furry pooches like Bernese mountain dogs, have a harder time cooling off. Obese and elderly dogs are also more susceptible to the heat. Finally, choose the timing of your walks wisely. Take your dog out in the morning and evening, when it's cooler out.

Though running errands with Fido might be a hard habit to break, Michaud encourages pet owners to think long term about their dog's well being. "I bring my dogs to work all the time," she says. "But if I know I'm going to run errands during the day, they stay home."

Here's what you should do if your dog succumbs to heat stroke:
- Get your dog out of direct sunlight; bring it inside or into some shade.
- Pour room temperature water over your pet, focusing on the head and neck area.
- Lower your dog's core temperature. While it may seem like a good idea give your pet ice water to drink, don't-room temperature is best. Cooling your dog too fast will worsen its condition.
- Get your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

If you see a "hot dog" and you live in Canada, report it to your regional SPCA at 310-SPCA (7722) and take the pledge online. Don't forget to follow the SPCA on Twitter and Facebook.

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How to keep your pet safe and healthy this summer