How to Protect Pets During Florida’s Dog Days of Summer

Written By Jacqui May

Whether you’re a year-round Floridian or you’re planning a visit to the Sunshine State no doubt sunscreen is on your shopping list. We humans know the risks of sun exposure and options for keeping ourselves safe from the sun’s rays, but what about our furry friends?

Hot Weather Safety Tips for Your Pets

When visiting or living in hot climates like Florida be sure to follow these basic guidelines to keep your fur babies safe and cool:

  • Prevent dehydration by providing lots of water and shade
  • Walk dogs (and cats too!) before the heat of the day kicks-in. Usually before 9:00 am and after 3:00 pm.
  • Pets can’t throw on flip-flops, so be careful you’re not walking them on hot surfaces that can damage their paw pads and lead to blisters or overheating in general.
  • Never, ever leave your pet in a vehicle. Not only is it dangerous due to extreme heat which can lead to heat stroke in just minutes, in many places it is illegal.
  • If you absolutely must take your pet out with you in your car be sure to bring a water bottle and dish and stop for frequent rehydration and relief stops. Be sure to give pets time outside of the car in the shade before you hit the road again.
  • If your furry family members join you for picnics or days at the dog beach be sure to keep people food secured. Many summer foods can be bad for our pets including grapes, onions (even cooked), and chocolate among others.
  • If your pet has a heavy or thick coat, consider a haircut – but no more than one inch short to avoid sunburn…

Do Dogs Need Sunscreen?

Just as with humans some dogs are more likely to have issues with the sun than others. Dogs with very short fur, light-colored coats and noses, or even those with no fur (yes this means you, Hairless Chinese Crested) are at greater risk for damage from the sun, including skin cancer.

  • Dogs and cats with light color noses are more vulnerable than others. When they experience prolonged sun exposure they can get nasal solar dermatitis which can lead to inflammation, infection, and discomfort.
  • Jerry Klein of the American Kennel Club recommends consulting your veterinarian for one of several specially formulated pet-safe sunscreens with SPF 15 or greater.
  • Pet sunscreen should be used according to label and provider instructions. A good rule of thumb for people and pets is to apply it at least 20 minutes before sun exposure and throughout the day as instructed.
  • Avoid products intended for humans that include PABA and Zinc both of which are toxic to dogs who might lick their skin and accidentally ingest the sunscreen.
  • Protective pet clothing will make sure your pet is both stylish and safe from the sun’s rays without the risk of chemicals. There are even companies making doggie goggles and hats to provide additional protection!
  • If you see any signs of sunburn in your pet such as irritated, warm, or flaking skin, get your pet indoors, or at least into the shade, and contact your veterinarian.

Pets and Skin Cancer

Our furry friends are like us in that they too can get skin cancer. If not checked and treated early dog melanomas, mast cell tumors, and squamous cell tumors can be fatal. Sun exposure and genetics are among the most common factors that can lead to skin tumors on dogs. While some tumors, particularly those in pigmented areas of skin and fur, will not be cancerous, pet tumors grow and spread quickly. It is important to get your pet to their health care provider for review and appropriate treatment of their specific condition.

Summer Fun for All!

Be sure to pay attention to your pets – no doubt you know them well and can see when they are trying to tell you something isn’t right as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer.

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer be sure to pay extra attention to your pets for signs of discomfort or stress. As you start planning for the summer fun ahead be sure to include human and pet safety preparations.

For more summer fun and beach info, check out our VISIT section.

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