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HELPING YOUR PET IN THE SUMMER

Keeping your pet cool

Dogs are much less efficient at cooling themselves compared to their masters and this means that they are much more susceptible to overheating. A dog’s normal body temperature is 100-102 degrees and they have sweat glands on their nose and pads of their paws. In order to cool down, they pant and drink water, so it is imperative to always have fresh, cool water available for your dog — whether going on a walk, riding in the car or in the house or back yard. If your dog is an outdoor dog, bring him inside during the hottest hours of the day and provide a shaded area in the yard, making sure he always has access to cool water since the hot sun can quickly make water too hot to drink.

The right time for playtime is in the cool of the early morning or evening, but never after a meal or when the weather is humid.

While spending a day on the beach may sound great to you or me, please don’t take you dog for a day on the beach unless you know you can have ready access to a shaded spot and plenty of fresh water available.

Provide fresh water and plenty of shade for animals kept outdoors; a properly constructed doghouse serves best. Bring your dog or cat inside during the heat of the day to rest in a cool part of the house.

Pay special attention if you have an older or overweight animal. Snub-nosed dogs such as pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers, Lhasa Apsos and Shih Tzus, and those dogs with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke

Heat exhaustion in dogs is often caused by dehydration and overheating from running or over exercising during hot weather. Heatstroke can occur when your dog’s body temperature is too high for a prolonged period of time, and both can lead to brain and organ damage, heart failure and even death. Short-nosed, thick-coated breeds and (just as with people) puppies, seniors and dogs with respiratory, cardiovascular and other health problems are especially susceptible. Some of the signs of heatstroke are panting hard, staggering gait, rapid heartbeat, dazed look, listlessness, restlessness, dark red or purple gums and/or tongue and vomiting. If you suspect a heat-induced illness in your dog, gradually lower his body temperature by moving him to the shade or air conditioning, apply cold packs to his head, neck or belly, or immerse in cool (not cold) water, giving small amounts of cool water or ice cubes to lick — and then take him to your veterinarian immediately.

Gerald Pribyl, D.V.M., A.B.V.P., says a dog’s normal body temperature is 100 to 102.5 F.

"Dogs don’t have effective cooling systems," Pribyl said. "If a dog’s body temperature gets to 106 or above, it can be deadly."

Pribyl recommends taking a dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer and cautions against cooling a dog off too quickly. Discontinue the cooling measures when a dog’s temperature reaches about 103. And don’t wait — get the dog to a vet immediately.

Hot cars and pets do not mix 

Dogs are part of their master’s families and that often means going for a ride in the car, whether it’s a short hop to the vet’s or going on the family vacation. Just as with young children, there is a danger in leaving your dog inside a parked car in the summer heat. You may think parking in the shade or leaving the windows slightly open will provide relief. But that is not always the case. Closed windows collect the sunlight and trap heat inside the car, increasing the temperature to dangerous and even deadly levels in just a matter of minutes.

A car’s interior temperature can increase as much as 40 degrees in an hour. Even on an average 85 degree day, the temperature of a car’s interior with the windows cracked slightly can reach 105 degrees in as quickly as 10 minutes. Even parking in the shade offers little protection because the sun (and shadows) shifts during the day.

In some cases, and as a last resort, in which you find that you have to leave your pet alone in the car for just a few minutes, here’s an idea. Be sure and have two car keys. You can leave the engine running and the air conditioning on with your dog inside and the doors safely locked. You can simply take the second key with you to open the door upon your return. But be careful, this practice should be used only when there is no alternative and for only a very short period of time. But please be aware – in many states, it is against the law to leave a pet unattended in a parked vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the animal. Vehicles are not the only potential dangerous hot spots that you need to avoid. Keep in mind that garden sheds, equipment and tool sheds and other similar small spaces can also build up heat very quickly and provide dangerous conditions if a pet is confined within. Another good tip when traveling — always carry a container filled with cold, fresh water when traveling with your pet.

Protect your dog from sunburn

Humans are not the only ones that can get sunburned. Dogs can also suffer from sunburn. For light-colored breeds and short-haired dogs, sunburn can often occur on tips of the ears, on the bridge of the nose and on the belly, groin and insides of the legs which can be caused by sunlight reflecting up from the sidewalk or concrete. There are sunscreens specifically for use on animals that can be applied to your dog’s nose and the tips of his or her ears. Be advised that it’s not advisable to put sunscreen on undersides because he will simply lick it off. Just be careful when walking your dog or taking him to the beach in the hot sun. It’s also important to remember that if you shave your dog’s coat in the summer, doing so will make him more likely to suffer from sunburn.    

Your dog’s paws are vulnerable

Dogs’ paws can easily get burned on asphalt, sidewalks, concrete and even sand on the beach if they are walked during the peak hot time of the day. When the temperature is very high, don’t permit your dog to stand or walk on hot asphalt. A dog’s paw pads are sensitive and can burn easily. Keep walks during the prime heat times to a minimum. A good way to tell if the surface is too hot is to do the touch — test. You can easily check the surface temperature with your hand before walking your dog. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s likely too hot for your dog’s paws. Walk during early morning or evening hours and never just after a meal. If you must walk your dog during the afternoon, you need to keep it short and keep him walking on the grass as much as possible.

Keep in mind that pets require many of the same basic summertime essentials that we humans need, i.e., a cool place to stay during the heat of the day, access to cool drinking water and plenty of rest. Whether your pets are spending time indoors or outdoors this summer, remember that they need special care and attention in the summer heat. By simply taking some common-sense precautions, you and your canine friend can enjoy the great outdoors together even more this summer.

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