Pets don’t belong in parked cars in the summer. Even with the windows cracked, the temperature inside a parked car can vastly exceed the temperature outside, leading to potentially deadly outcomes. People who need to run errands on warm days are better off leaving their pets safely at home. Access to shade and to fresh, clean water are among the basic needs that should be provided to all animals throughout the year, but these become especially important as the temperature rises.
Q: How much sun and heat are too much for a dog or a cat?
Like many questions, this one largely depends on the pet’s breed and size. Short-nosed dogs such as pugs and bulldogs have a harder time moving air and have a much lower heat tolerance than longer-nosed breeds. Owners of short-nosed breeds need to pay particular attention that these dogs aren’t left in the sun or overexerted on warm days.
Length and type of hair can play a role in heat tolerance as well. Arctic dog breeds such as huskies have a thick fur undercoat that can predispose them to overheating. Meanwhile, pets with thin hair—particularly on the face—actually can become sunburned if exposed to the sun for extended periods. Areas of exposed skin, such as the bridge of the pet’s nose, are especially susceptible to sunburn. It’s acceptable and safe to apply sunscreen to that area prior to prolonged sun exposure.
Q: My parents have a dog who loves to swim, but she sometimes gets too far out in the lake, worrying them. What should owners know about dogs and water? Do most cats stay away from water?
Some dogs love water and are naturally excellent swimmers while others have less affinity for water and swimming. For dogs that enjoy water, swimming is great exercise.
Owners should use caution with their pets around lakes with warm, stagnant water that appears to be blooming with algae. Some types of algae produce toxins that can lead to skin irritation, upper airway irritation and, in the most extreme cases, death. Not all algal blooms are toxic, but I recommend keeping dogs out of water that has a “pea soup” appearance. It’s a good practice for owners to rinse their dogs if they have been exposed to water that is known or suspected to have poor quality. A good rinse decreases the chance of skin irritation.
I certainly have known cats with an affinity for water. My own cat pads along the lakeshore at the cabin, never letting the water exceed the tops of her paws. It’s relatively common to hear owners talk about their cats occasionally hopping into the shower or the sink to play in water dripping from a faucet.