Burn, baby, burn: On sunburn, pad burns and other hot weather hazards for pets
Everyone thinks it always comes down to the heat stroke nightmare scenario. But it doesn’t––not always. Hot weather hazards are seriously diverse. And here’s a listing of what you need to look out for––beyond the heat stroke, which all of you should avoid like the plague, anyway.
1. Burnt pads
My burnt pad patients almost invariably come attached to owners who profess ignorance of this possibilty. Anyone who’s walked barefoot on a hot, sandy beach in mid-summer, however, can attest to the horrors of surface temperatures. Why should it be so different for dogs walked on scalding asphalt? Pads can only do so much to protect them.
2. Skin cancer
Why not? Indeed, pets get skin cancer quite readily as a result of UV radiation. Though most cancers of the skin are unrelated to the sun’s rays, a large percentage of white or light-colored sunbathers (especially in more tropical latitudes) suffer solar-related skin cancers.
3. Pool hazards and other drowning possibilities
Heading out to the beach? BBQ poolside? Lakeside vacation? They all present the possibilty of drowning. And it’s more common than you might think. Debilitated pets, those with vision problems or seizure disordes, non-swimmers (especially those in unfamiliar environments)––they can all drown easily. Here are some ideas to help avoid the possibility as best you can.
Yes, it happens. And apart from being uncomfortable, it’s a big risk factor for skin cancer. Protect your pets with a liberal application of sunscreen, 30 SPF (or greater) kid’s stuff is what veterinary dermatologists recommend. Ears, the bridge of the nose and other sparse haircoat areas are the target zones for a liberal slathering of sunscreen. But belly-up sunbathers tend to lick it off their most exposed parts. That’s why, for them, I recommend...
5. Sunblock T-shirts
Or any T-shirt at all. They help block those nasty UV rays without the vagaries of lickable sunscreen and its dubious SPF protection.
6. Too hot for anyone
Avoid the sun during peak times of the day. Not only is heat stroke more likely at these times, pets exposed to these solar rays are more at risk of sunburn and skin cancer––of course.
7. Water, water, everywhere
Always travel with water for your dog. Know where the hoses, water fountains and other sources of water are along your regular walks and at your dog parks.
8. Know the signs of heat exhaustion
Bright red gums/tongue/eyes, excessive panting, sudden exercise intolerance. Of course, all of these must be assessed relative to your dog’s normal exercised state. Pay attention to what she usually looks like so you don’t push her to walk all the way back home once you start to notice the obvious signs of heat exhaustion (mild to moderate hyperthermia). Because the next step is too often...
9. Heat stroke
Here’s where his temp has climbed into the 105-and-above range (severe hyperthermia). Here are some do’s and dont’s, thanks to VIN’s VeterinaryPartner (one of my favorite comprehensive online resources for pet healthcare):
What to Do
- Remove the pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred.
- Move the pet to the shade and direct a fan on him.
- If possible, determine rectal temperature and record.
- Begin to cool the body by wetting with cool (not cold) water on the trunk and legs. It is helpful to use rubbing alcohol on the skin of the stomach and allow the fan to speed evaporation.
- Transport to a veterinary facility.
What NOT to Do
- Do not use cold water or ice for cooling.
- Do not overcool the pet.
- Do not attempt to force water orally.
- Do not leave the pet unattended for any length of time.”
10. Protect your pets indoors, too
Heat stroke can happen indoors, too. On extra-hot days our homes can turn into ovens should our AC go out or our power browns out. That’s how one Frenchie died a couple of weeks ago. In his crate. When the AC compressor went out.
Keep this possibility at bay with a fan trained on the crate, a generator or a spare AC wall unit set on low in the room the crate lives in. I like the idea of a frozen gallon jug of water placed behind the fan for maximum cooling power while you’re gone––just in case. Refreeze it overnight and repeat.
Any of you have some other tips for us?
Image Source: Marjolein Vegers via Flickr