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Dog days of summer: The best ways to help pets beat the summer heat

Published 12:11pm Saturday, July 5, 2014

School is out, swimming pools are up, sunscreen is on and summer activities are in full swing.

The warm weather longed after all year is here, and with it… comes a massive heat wave.

Mid-summer heat can be brutal and without the proper precautions anyone’s health could quickly spiral into a dangerous state — our beloved pets are not excluded.

Did you know the average temperature of a cat or dog year-round ranges between 101.5 to 102.5 degrees?

Dr. Martin Berry, of Berry Veterinary Clinic in Picayune, says this means our pets are naturally hotter than humans. In addition, most wear a pretty heavy coat, which they’re not able to sweat through.

“A dog can only sweat from his nose and his paw pads, or by evaporating water on his tongue,” Berry explains. “That’s his sole way of reducing body heat.”

This task isn’t very efficient. So when temperatures rise, it’s best for pets to forego any unnecessary strenuous activity. Never force an animal to exercise in hot, humid weather.

“Something I’ll never understand is why people take their pets for walks on hot asphalt is the middle of the day”, Berry says, quite astonished.

Hot concrete and asphalt can not only radiate more heat back up at the animal, but also burns sensitive footpads and bellies. When walking pets on a hot day, stick to the grass or other surfaces that aren’t as hot. It’s much safer have your pet exercise in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler.

As temperatures become too hot to handle, Maria Diamond, President of the SPCA, warns, “Be alert for coolant leaking from your vehicle. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste of coolant and ingesting just a small amount can cause an animal’s death.”

“And never leave a pet alone in a parked car, even in the shade with the windows down. Your vehicle can quickly become a furnace,” Diamond continues.

Consider leaving your animals at home instead of bringing them along on errands. University studies have found the inside of parked cars to be an average of 15-20 degrees hotter than it is outside.

Always make sure your animal has access to plenty of shade and fresh water. Pets often knock over their water supply, so Diamond suggests placing an old tire around the water bowl so it doesn’t spill as easily.

When pets are not able to cool off high temperatures can become threatening and lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.

When outdoors, it’s important to be mindful of the signs of heat illness in pets and be attentive to the animal’s condition at all times.

According to the Humane Society, heat exhaustion is preliminary to heat stroke. Signs of heat exhaustion are intense panting, lolling tongue, fatigue, disorientation and fainting.

Heat stroke is more severe and can leave permanent brain or nerve damage, sometimes proving fatal. The most common signs of heat stroke in pets are excessive panting, difficulty breathing, a body temperature of more than 104 degrees, collapse, bloody diarrhea, vomit, increased heart rate or respiratory rate, salivation, depression, stupor, seizures or coma.

“If you see these symptoms, get your pet out of direct heat and spray the animal with cool water or place water-soaked towels on the head, neck, feet, chest and abdomen. Get him to a vet as soon as possible,” Diamond said.

Conscientious pet owners should be proactive with their pet’s safety during the sweltering summer months. Establish proper safeguards to ensure pets avoid fatigue and continue having fun in the summer sun.

By Debra Howell
Picayune Item

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