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Tips to keep your pets safe and cool this summer

Carol Rääbus, Saturday November 11, 2017 - 16:26 EDT
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If you need protection from the sun, chances are your pets need it too. - ABC

You know to slip, slop, slap and cover up to protect yourself from sunburn in summer, but what about your pets?

Does your dog need sunblock? Can cats get sunburnt?

North Hobart Veterinary Hospital vet Jennifer Cormack said if you need sun protection, your pet probably does too.

And it is not just UV radiation that can be dangerous.

Heat dangers not just from above

Dr Cormack recommends taking dogs for their exercise early in the morning in summer, before the day gets too hot.

When you take your dog for a walk, it is not just the heat from above that can be a hazard — think about the ground under the dog's paws.



"Take them to cooler areas. Walk them on the grass if you can," Dr Cormack said.

"When you go for a walk, you're wearing your shoes. You're not touching that hot ground.

"Take your shoes off. If you can't stand there, then neither should your dog."

Dr Cormack said it was also important to watch out for what was on the ground, because items such as broken glass and dropped food that had gone off in the heat could cause trouble for dogs.

and other pets allowed to roam in summer.



Should you give your dog a haircut ahead of the heat?

"There is not a definite answer to this question," Dr Cormack said.



Thick coats can help insulate a dog against the sun and heat, but if the dog gets hot exercising, the same insulation can trap their body heat in.

But be aware, cutting off their coat will leave them more vulnerable to sunburn.

"Brush out the undercoat," Dr Cormack said.

"So you've got the guard hairs there for sun protection, but not to keep your dog too hot."

Overheating from exercise

Some dogs do not know when to stop, and this can be dangerous in the summer months.

"If you're throwing a ball, you're not getting as hot as the dog who is chasing the ball constantly," Dr Cormack said.

"Some of our young and active dogs, they're not going to think about stopping exercising when they should stop.

"They will keep running and running until they go into heatstroke."



Make sure you cool your dog down after exercising with a quick hose down if they are happy getting wet, or at least put them in a cooler place.

If your dog likes swimming, again it is worth keeping a close eye on them.

"Sometimes when we're throwing balls out into the water and they can't find it, they will keep on swimming and that can be dangerous," Dr Cormack said.

"Dogs that are catching balls in waves, they can also be taking in salt water which can make them vomit and also give them diarrhoea, and it can be lethal for them if they've taken in enough salt water."

Sun protection for pets

We need to protect our skin against sunburn when the UV is high, and we should help our pets protect their skin as well.



For pale-coloured dogs, clothing such as a rash top can help protect their skin from damage, and sunscreen can be used as well.

"You can use human sunscreens, but don't use ones that have zinc or salicylates in them," Dr Cormack said.

"If it says 'don't ingest', don't use it on your dog, the reason being that potentially your dog's going to be licking it off."

Sunscreen works the same way for animals as it does for humans — you need to apply it and let it sink into the skin before exposure to the sun, and it needs to be reapplied regularly.

"Don't forget the belly, because if you've got a dog that's going to roll on their back and sunbake, that needs to be protected," Dr Cormack said.

Indoor pets can also be at risk

But it is not just dogs outside that need protection from the sun — an indoor pet that likes to sleep near windows can also get burnt and overheat.

Providing a spot out of the heat is necessary for all pets.



"They will move out of the sun if they're given the opportunity to move to a cooler area," Dr Cormack said.

"No matter what the species is, give them an opportunity to get out of the sun.

"Provide shade, and bear in mind that shade moves through the day with the sun.

"Also make sure that their water bowls are in the shade."

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- ABC

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