Summer is officially here, and so is the heat!! Whether you like to bake in the sun, or are an indoor dweller in love with the wonders of your AC and fan (as I am this year at nine months pregnant in August), your pet is more sensitive to this heat then most of us realize. Especially with the high humidity. Pets have very different and more limited ways of cooling off than we do, and are therefore more sensitive to overheating. Did you know that cats and dogs only sweat through their paws? Sweating is a primary mechanism for the body to release heat, but when the only surface area is 4 paws of 5 small paw pads, there is only so much heat that can be released.
Panting, especially in dogs, is another mechanism of heat release. Panting in cats can be a sign of other problems, including respiratory distress and stress. And while panting in dogs can be a completely normal sign of excitement or normal heat exchange, it can also be a sign that your furry friend needs to go inside and get a drink of water. Our pets cannot tell us that they are overheating, so we have to make sure to time how long they are outside, and try to make sure they have ample shade and water. Our loyal companions would usually rather stay by our side than contemplate leaving us to go inside and cool off, so we have to be cognizant of limiting their time outside for them.
This is especially true for brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, frenchies, boxers and other such adorably smush-face pooches. These breeds are extremely sensitive to the heat, and in some cases even a few minutes of exposure to the heat can be very dangerous. Try to avoid taking these breeds out in the hottest parts of the day, limit walks to just going to the bathroom, and always make sure to keep them in the shade and have ample water available. If your bulldog loves his walks, try to make a date for super early mornings or late at night, when the sun is in and both of you can enjoy the cool air.
To clip or not to clip? This question has two opposing schools of thought, and you can decide which is right for your pet. The side in favor of clipping believes that the shorter coat will allow more air flow to the skin and thereby help them cool off. I imagine people with short haircuts or buzz cuts would have an opinion of if this is true? I am attached to my long hair and will just have to take everyone else’s opinion on this one! The school of thought opposed to clipping believes that your pet’s coat naturally insulates the cool air, keeping a layer of cool air at the skin, and keeping the hot air away from the fur. The fact that pets do not sweat through their skin also supports this side… No one truly knows the right answer, and I feel it very much varies from pet to pet. So try to see what is right for your pet, and remember, no matter your decision, no worries it will grow back!
So in summary, be sure to always have plenty of water available to your pet, try to provide as much shade as possible, and be aware of and limit the amount of time they spend outside in the heat. And for the more sensitive brachycephalic breeds, try to limit their exposure to the heat as much as possible. Wishing everyone and their furry friends a safe and fun summer season!