Monday, July 16, 2012

Beat the Heat


The hottest months are upon us and I was amazed, 
flipping through the newspaper recently, 
to see people being issued citations 
for leaving their four-legged friends in the car 
while they ran errands in the mid-day heat.  
Apparently what seems to be common sense to you and me may not be true for all pet owners.

And then there was that horrific picture
circulating around on Facebook
of the dog paws that were totally blistered
because they took Fido for a walk
on the hot pavement.

Or the terribly violent weather that ripped across 
the eastern half of the country 2 weeks ago,
leaving people without power,
some for days on end, in some of the hottest weather to date.

So, let's review some basics to ensure
we make the smartest decisions for our furry friends
(provided by the Humane Society):

Never leave your pets in a parked car.

Not even for a minute. Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85 degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. If you see an animal in distress in a parked car, contact the nearest animal shelter or police. Spread the word about the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars by printing out our Hot Car flyer (PDF) to post in public places and share with your friends, family, and coworkers.

Watch the humidity.

"It's important to remember that it's not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet," says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly."

Don't rely on a fan.

Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) And fans don't cool off pets as effectively as they do people.

Provide ample shade and water.

Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.

Limit exercise on hot days.

Take care when exercising your pet.  Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets who, because of their short noses, typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible.
Find a pet-friendly hotel:
If you can't find a hotel or shelter, check with friends, relatives or others outside your immediate area. Ask if they would be able to shelter you and your animals or just your animals, if necessary. If you have more than one pet, you may need to house them at separate locations.
Some boarding facilities and veterinary offices might be able to shelter animals in emergencies. Your local animal shelter will probably won't have room to board your pets during this heat emergency, but they may be able to recommend alternate facilities.

Recognize the signs of heatstroke.

Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.
Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short, smushed muzzles, will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

What to do if you think your pet is suffering from heatstroke:

Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her. Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take her directly to a veterinarian.
Don't expect your furry friend to be able
to communicate discomfort to you...
Be proactive and look out for their well-being!

**Check out all of Jamie Shelton's wonderful illustrations on her etsy shop here.

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