Summertime is upon us, and throughout Northern California people are venturing outside for some fun in the sun. Pets are great companions on our outdoor adventures, provided some basic safety tips are observed.
Just like you burn after spending too much time in the sun, your pets can experience sunburn too. The sun mostly effects hairless dog and cat breeds, but can also damage the skin of any pet with light skin and short or thin hair. The more time your pet spends outdoors, the more likely they are to experience ill effects from the sun. Long-term exposure, in addition to an uncomfortable sunburn, can cause skin cancer. Even if your pet has a thick coat of hair, remember that taking a snooze in the sun can expose the hairless belly to the sun's damaging rays.
The most obvious way to prevent sunburn is to minimize your pet's exposure, especially when the sun is strongest. This means keeping your pet inside between the hours of 11 to 3 each day. Another suggestion (which may seem a little silly at first) is to outfit your pet with protective clothing if you're going to the lake, beach, or out on the Delta. There are several companies which make pet clothing with solar protection, or you can simply use a light T-shirt to cover those hairless bellies.
Finally, if you can't keep your pet out of the sun and he isn't a fan of wearing clothing, you can apply sunscreen to protect the skin. A word of warning though; most human sunscreen contains ingredients that are highly toxic to both dogs and cats. Use only a veterinarian approved sunscreen on your pet. Your Sierra Veterinary Clinic doctor can help you choose a good one for your pet.
If your summer plans involve boating or spending time near the pool or lake, remember that dogs and cats don't float! Some pets are natural swimmers and love the water, but for others it's an uncomfortable and scary experience. Don't assume that your dog will be able to swim, or even keep his head above water if it's too deep to stand up. It's best to let him try it out in shallow water before taking a big plunge into the deep end.
If you're boating, your dog belongs in a life preserver. No exceptions. Even if your dog is an excellent swimmer, the life preserver keeps him from getting tired out too quickly should he jump or fall into the water, and also gives you something to grab as you pull him back into the boat. You should also remember that a wet dog is considerably heavier than a dry one. A dog that you can easily lift onto the couch or into the car can be much more difficult to pull out of the water. Make sure you can handle the weight before you let your pet swim off of the boat.
Summertime gives us outstanding opportunities for recreation and fun, and by following these tips you can keep it safe for everyone involved!