The dangers of sunbathing

The power of the sun can have unpleasant side effects. Just like us, cats and dogs can suffer from sunburn and heatstroke. Here we have the answers to the most important questions regarding symptoms, prevention and first aid in an emergency.

Cats and dogs are supposed to have a good instinct for when to stop sunbathing – is this true?
Pet owners should not rely on this as cats and dogs can sometimes underestimate the heat. There is, therefore, no guarantee that your pet will stop sunbathing at the right time. If your cat or dog is lying in the blazing sun and panting heavily, you should intervene and usher them into the house or at least into the shade. You should also try to prevent your pet from sunbathing in the midday heat.

How can I tell if my pet is too hot?
Cats and dogs are not able to sweat and therefore have to regulate their body temperature in other ways. Dogs pant and cats clean themselves more frequently in order to cool their coat with saliva. If this does not suffice, then they will also begin to pant.

How can I help them cool down?
Take your pet indoors and open up doors to cooler rooms such as the bathroom. Cats will happily jump into an empty bath while dogs will lie down on tiled floors – the cool ground helps them cool off. You can also give dogs a rub with a damp towel or set up a doggy paddling pool in your garden. But please don’t forget to put up a sun umbrella for shade. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to convince your cat to take a bath or have a rub down with a damp towel so you will need to play clever. Ruffle your cat’s fur with wet hands so that the cool water also reaches the hot skin beneath. Some cats like it when you leave a finger’s width of water in the washbasin as they can use this to dampen and cool their paws. Can cats and dogs get sunburnt?

Yes, unfortunately they can. Their coat does not fully protect them from the sun’s rays. Animals with very short and very light coats, such as white boxers and white-faced cats, are particularly at risk. Areas that are not fully covered by hair, such as the insides of upright ears and the nose are particularly prone to sunburn.

How can this be prevented?
The best way is to avoid strong sunlight and to keep cats and dogs indoors or in the shade around midday. You should also apply sun cream to the areas at risk. Be sure to use perfume-free sun cream for babies and make sure that it does not get in your pet’s eyes. Other sun cream can be harmful if your pet licks it off. Sun protection is essential by the sea and in the mountains as sunburn is not only painful but can also lead to further infection.

If my dog is not allowed to spend too much time in the sun, can I leave him in the car while I’m out and about?
Absolutely not! While your car may provide protection against direct sunlight, it can act like an oven. During the summer, the temperature inside a car can reach in excess of 60 degrees Celsius within minutes – even when the windows are left ajar or the car is parked in the shade. A few minutes in these conditions are all it takes to cause fatal heatstroke or a circulatory collapse. Each year, animals die a miserable death because their owners underestimate this risk. How can I tell whether my cat or dog has heatstroke?
Heavy drooling and panting are typical tell-tale signs among dogs. If a dog is drooling heavily and smacking his lips, this is an indication that he is unwell. Cats also pant heavily and may display signs of breathlessness.

Initially, most animals with this condition will seem restless and will look for a cool place. They will then lie down and appear listless. If your pet’s legs give way while walking, this should also ring alarm bells. Palpitations and increased body temperature may also occur at this stage. Take a look at your pet’s gums. If your dog is suffering from circulatory problems, the gums will be white, while cats’ gums will be dark.

What should I do if I think my pet has heatstroke?
Take your pet to the vet immediately or call the animal rescue service. Heatstroke can be fatal in an animal and every minute counts – it is essential that your pet is treated by a vet. Prior to arriving at the vet, place damp towels on the animal to keep it cool. To prevent a circulatory collapse, ensure that the towels are dampened with cool and not ice-cold water.

Call into your local store today to discuss your pet’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts

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