DOG (and CAT) DAYS OF SUMMER
Summer is well upon us, and we are out enjoying the weather. Although our pets may enjoy the laid back evenings, camping, swimming and hiking as much as we do, they are more susceptible to the weather than we are. With the hot, humid days ahead of us, there are some precautions we need to take, that will keep our companions comfortable and safe. Many of the precautions are common knowledge, but easy to forget about while enjoying some fun in the sun.
Heat stroke is an imbalance of heat production and heat dissipation causing extreme elevation of body temperatures greater than 104˚F, resulting in direct thermal injury to body tissues that cause multi-organ failure, even death. The most commonly reported signs are, but not limited to: excessive panting, hyper salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, staggering, seizures, and loss of consciousness. If you have concerns about your pet or they have any of these signs, seek immediate veterinary care.
While transporting your pet to the veterinary office, you should keep your pet as cool as possible. This can be done by thoroughly wetting you pet down with cool, NOT cold, water; applying ice packs to the head, neck and chest only; running the air conditioner in your vehicle or have the windows down; giving ice cubes to lick, but do not give water. By beginning the cooling process at home and on your way to the clinic the mortality rate can be decrease by nearly 25%.
Our pets cannot cool down as efficiently as us, because they sweat minimally through the pads on their feet, which is not enough to cool the whole body. The only other way for our pets to cool naturally is by panting. Multiple factors that predispose our pets to heat exhaustion include: breed, age, obesity, dark, thick or long coats, and cardiovascular disease. Because they can not pant as effectively, brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds like Pugs, Boxers, Persians, and Himalayans are more susceptible to the heat. Older and obese pets may have a harder time dissipating the heat, and may not be able to get to a cooler, safer area as easily. Although the thick long coats help to act as insulation to help protect from the heat, matting and tangles can increase the risk of overheating. Keeping our pets well groomed can help pets stay cooler, if the coat does need to be clipped keep it a minimum of 1 inch to help protect against sunburn.
Leaving pets unattended in parked vehicles carries multiple risks, as the temperature can rise to 120˚F in a matter of 30 minutes. If our pets are unable to go with us, it may be best to have someone stay with them, or leave them at home. If our pets do go with us, it is a good idea to know the weather forecast. If it will be a hot humid day, our pets may be safer and more comfortable at home, instead of walking around in crowded, muggy areas, with limited water supply. Our pets still need exercise, so on the hot humid days, it is best to take them in the early morning or early evening when it is cooler. Avoiding blacktop and tar will be safer and less traumatic to our companions’ pads.
Always leave fresh cool water available in a safe place that can’t easily be knocked over or spilt. Though leaving our pets tied on leads may sound like a safe idea, pets can easily wind themselves around trees or other objects, limiting the ability to reach water. Along with providing plenty of water, our pets need a well ventilated area in the shade to help keep cool. On extremely hot days, it is safest for your pet to be kept indoors. If you leave windows open in your home, it is best to be sure that the screens are secure to prevent pets from accidentally falling through.
Though the heat of summer can sometimes limit our activities with our companion friends, simple precautions like fresh cool water, plenty of shade, regular grooming, and veterinary care, can make the dog days a little more enjoyable for everyone.