Thursday, May 28, 2015

Summer Heat Safety

Alana, Photo by Claire Clayton

We love our pets and we love having them with us, but there are times when they are much safer and happier at home.

I'm a huge fan of Summer. I love these sunny days, especially because I live in place where Winter seems to last forever. Lots of snow, brutally cold days and nights, grey skies. Summer seems like a special blessing. 

Redbear Photo Courtesy Nancy Ross
While there are lots of things we can do outdoors with dogs we also have to be aware of the dangers of summer heat. Just like us, dogs can get heatstroke. It's not unusual for pet owners to want to take their dogs (or cat) with them while they run errands.  You really think you'll only be gone for a minute or two, leaving your four-legged companion locked in the car. Well, you really don't know if you'll only be gone for a minute or two. You may get stuck in a line, something can take longer to find, you may run into someone who wants to chat and you lose track of time.

Here's the truth of what happens while your pets are inside the car.  The temperature inside the car will rise 40º F. in an hour even when it's only 72º outside and most of that happens within the first half hour. You cracked your windows open? Sorry, but that won't stop the heat from rising. On a hot day a car can reach 120º within minutes and heatstroke can happen even if you leave your car in the shade.  Even leaving the car running with the air conditioner on doesn't guarantee your pets' safety. In fact, some dogs have been known to accidentally move the shift with the car and the dog headed for an accident.

The best place for your dog is in your air conditioned home. Home will be cooler and more comfortable than your car which is little more than a big box filled with heat when you park it.

Hunnybear Photo Courtesy Nancy Ross

Keep in mind that black dogs and cats will retain heat and will get hotter even faster than dogs and cats of other colors. Brachycephalic dogs and cats (those with short noses) like Pekingese, Persian Cats, Bulldogs, Pugs, etc. have a difficult enough time breathing in cooler weather. It's far more difficult for them on hot days.

Cats need to be indoors for their safety and both cats and dogs need fresh water available at all times. I highly recommend using rotating metal water dishes, keeping on in the freezer while the other is out. When the ice has melted and the water begins to get warm, spill it out (perhaps into your plants if you have any that are safe for pets to be around), refill it and pop it in the freezer while you take the other one out for your pets.  I have often written about this and I can only hope that readers pay attention. I like to give puppies, kittens, dogs and cats ice cubes to play with. Not only does it help keep them cool but if your pet gets sick and needs to be slowly rehydrated, an ice cube will do the trick and will already be something familiar.

Bojangles Photo Courtesy Gordon Brice
Never walk your dog between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is at its highest. No matter what time it is, check the pavement before you allow your dog or cat to walk on it. If it's too hot for the palm of your hand, it's too hot for the pads of your pet's paws! Walks are best early in the morning and in the evening when it's cooler. Remember that dogs don't perspire the way people do. The only ways they can release heat is panting and through the pads of their feet.

Be aware of the signs of heatstroke.  They include but aren't limited to excessive panting, tongue and/or gums are bright red, tongue and/or gums can be either sticky or dry, staggering when trying to walk, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, seizures. Your dog can die. That is not an exaggeration.

Get your dog into the shade, use cool, not ice water (very cold water will restrict the blood vessels, slowing the cooling), use cool wet towels on your pets feet and around the head. You may also want to put one on the tummy.  Don't let the body cool below 103º.  Offer ice cubes but don't force your pet to drink water. Get your pet to the veterinarian as fast as you can.

Cat (that's his name) Courtesy Karin Bundy

Be aware of the temperature. Don't exercise your pet to excess in the heat. All things in moderation, including playtime which is better in the early evening. If it's a hot evening, exercise caution.

Enjoy the Summer and be sure it's a safe one for everyone!


Rescuegal said...

As usual, Darlene Arden has given us some excellent tips about keeping our dogs and cats safe and healthy during the hot summer months. Thanks for the valuable information.

Darlene said...

Thank you so much! It's so important to remember how quickly our pets can get heatstroke. We need to do everything we can to prevent it. At the first sign, we need to rush the pet to their veterinarian. Please feel free to share this information!

James Stagg said...

This is soooooo necessary. Thanks, Darlene!

Darlene said...

Thank you. I hope everyone who reads it will share it and we can prevent a lot of unnecessary illness and death this summer.

Adeel Magma said...
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