Monday, May 16, 2016

DOGS AND HEAT


With the weather getting warmer, we are not the only ones eager to get outside to enjoy some fun activities.  It is important to remember that when temperatures climb, the heat can be devastating to your canine companion.  Being prepared can insure that Fido stays safe and comfortable during the coming months.

Every year, hundreds of pets die because they are left in vehicles.  Do not let your pet be a statistic.  On an 85-degree day the temperature inside a car with the windows slightly open can reach 104 degrees within 10 minutes, after 30 minutes 119 degrees and after one hour, 130 degrees.  Dogs do not perspire like humans.  They pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body.  If the air that they are taking in is too hot, like it is in a parked car, then panting does not help and the animal quickly overheats.  Rolling down a window or parking in the shade does not offer protection either, since temperatures can still escalate to dangerous levels. 

If you walk your dog, keep in mind that asphalt and pavement get very hot during the summer.  In fact, hot enough to burn a dog’s pads.  If you would not walk barefoot on it, then do not walk your dog on it.  Take care, also, when exercising your pet, being sure to moderate intensity and duration in accordance with the temperature.  On very hot days, limit any exercise to the cooler early morning or evening hours. 

Whether the two of you are playing in the back yard or taking a jaunt, always make sure you have plenty of water on hand.  At home, make sure your pet’s water bowl is in the shade so the water stays as cool as possible and so your pet does not burn its tongue on an over-heated bowl. 

Outside there should always be available protection from heat and sun.  Shade from trees and tarps is ideal because they do not obstruct air flow.   Another way to keep your pet cool is by providing a kiddie pool to play or lay in.  Like people, overexposure to UV rays can give your dog a nasty case of sunburn and also increase the risk of skin cancer.  A natural coat that has been groomed offers protection from sunburn and can act as cooling insulation. If you give your dog a close cut for summer, consult a veterinarian about whether your pet will require a pet-approved sunscreen on its exposed areas.

When going boating with your pet, be sure your pet always has proper identification and is micro chipped in case he happens to fall overboard.  Fit your dog with a personal flotation device even if you are comfortable about his swimming ability.  Accidents do happen and, when on a lake or river, it’s a long way to swim to the shore.  Life jackets made for dogs keep their heads above water and have a handle on the back to make it easier to grab them from the water.  Swimming with your dog is great exercise for the both of you and can provide relief from the heat.  When encouraging a dog to swim it is important to be aware of its ability, stamina, shape, and breathing ability, because not all dogs are natural swimmers.

Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, or have heart or lung disease.  Some breeds, like boxers, pugs, and other dogs with short muzzles, will have a harder time breathing in extreme heat.  Signs of heat stroke include heavy panting that does not ease upon rest, abnormal gum and tongue color, collapse, drooling, lack of coordination, vomiting and difficulty breathing.  If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, move him into the shade or into an air-conditioned area immediately.  Spray the dog down with cool (not cold) water, or drape him with cool, wet towels.  It is very important to avoid ice or very cold water.  Lowering the animal’s temperature too quickly can cause other health problems.  If he wishes, allow your dog to drink cool, not cold, water freely, but do not force him to.  Even if he seems to be cooling, get him to a vet as quickly as possible to ensure that a normal temperature has been reached and that no organ or tissue damage has occurred.

If it is too hot for us, whatever the location, it is even hotter for our furry faithful friends and it is our duty to protect them.


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