Although the first official day of summer is still a couple weeks away, the heat has arrived. This is a delicate time for pets to be outdoors, so taking the appropriate precautions for our furry friends is a must.
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so make sure they always have plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot outdoors. They need a shady retreat to get out of the sun, should not be overexercised and should be kept indoors when it’s extremely hot out.
Dogs with flat faces, like pug and bulldog varieties, are more susceptible to heat stroke, since they cannot pant as effectively. These breeds, along with older animals, those who are overweight and those with heart or lung disease should be kept cool inside in the air-conditioning as much as possible.
Know the symptoms of overheating in pets:
• excessive panting or difficulty breathing
• increased heart rate
• excessive drooling
• collapse or loss of consciousness
• bloody diarrhea and vomiting
• an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees
DANGERS: As the temperatures rise outside, they soar inside a vehicle. Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. Not only can it lead to fatal heat stroke, it is illegal in several states. Every summer, we see the same headlines: an animal or a child left in a hot car.
Leaving a dog (or child) in a vehicle can quickly turn deadly. This is a dangerous situation that can escalate in a matter of minutes. Dogs are extremely vulnerable to heat, because they can cool off only by panting and through the pads in their feet. Being left in a car, even one that is parked in the shade or with the windows cracked, can compromise a pet’s health quickly.
For example, it may be 72 degrees outside, but a car’s internal temperature can rise to 116 degrees within 20 minutes. Leaving the cracked windows will not help the situation, as studies have shown that this has little effect on a car’s internal temperature. Parking in the shade is not a solution either.
A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 to 102.5 degrees. A dog can withstand a high body temperature only for a short time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death.
WATER SAFETY: Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool. Not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when out on a boat. After swimming, dogs should be rinsed off to remove chlorine or salt from the fur. Dogs also should not drink pool water, as it contains chlorine and other chemicals.
WHEN TO WALK: When the temperature is very high, don’t let pets walk on hot asphalt. Being so close to the ground, your dog’s body can heat up fast, and sensitive paw pads can quickly burn. Keep walks to early morning or late evening and avoid walks during the hottest parts of the day.
NO SUMMER HAIRCUTS, PLEASE: While you may be inclined to trim your long-haired dog during the summer, you should never shave your dog. The layers of a dog’s coat protects it from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat.
OUTDOOR HAZARDS: Commonly used rodenticides and insecticides can be harmful to pets if ingested. Keep citronella candles, tiki torch products and insect coils of out pets’ reach as well. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect your pet has ingested a poisonous substance.
In addition, be sure any sunscreen or insect repellent products used on pets is labeled for animal use, and specifically your animal type.
Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For more info on ARNO, visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.