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Do you have tips for pet care in the heat?

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In your quest to keep cool this summer, don’t forget to keep your pets out of the heat as well. Since animals can’t tell you if they’re too hot, keep these tips in mind:

  • Know where your pet is when the temperature rises. Cats tend to find a cool place to hide in the heat. Dogs don’t do this as much and subsequently end up having more heat-related problems.
  • Be aware of haircoat length. Pets do not perspire from the body, so haircoat does not make them hotter. In fact, haircoat can actually act as an insulator and give them protection from the heat. Even Northern breeds of dogs, adapted to colder weather, can get by without a hair clipping this time of year. If the haircoat is matted, a full body clip may be needed to restore the normal coat. If this is the case, use caution immediately after the clipping to avoid sunburn, even though the animal has some hair stubble left. Then brush regularly to avoid hair mats in the future.
  • Do not lock your pet in the car. If the temperature is 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees in 30 minutes or less. Simply cracking the windows does not give sufficient ventilation. It is best to leave your pet at home. If you must take it with you, tie it outside the car with access to shade and water. Check it frequently. Use a rope or chain that your pet can’t chew through or loosen.
  • Provide some form of shade for dogs in a kennel. Pouring or spraying water on soil in the shade will also help cool your dog during the afternoon heat. If the kennel surface is concrete or asphalt, shade is even more critical. A small spray or flow of water across the surface will help during the daylight hours. Always make sure there is plenty of fresh drinking water as well.
  • Be aware of panting, since this is how dogs get rid of excess body heat. Do not do anything to interfere with this. Be cautious of strenuous activities like taking your dog on hikes or bike rides. Take water and frequently give the dog small amounts. Watch the extent and amount of panting. If panting seems excessive and the dog’s mouth is wide open, heat stroke may be approaching.
  • Know the signs of heatstroke. They include excessive panting and salivation, vomiting, anxious or staring expression, rapid pulse and high body temperature. Heatstroke can cause permanent brain damage and death. Emergency treatment includes immersing the animal in cool water or pouring cool water over the body and allowing it to evaporate. Ice packs can be applied to the head. If these suggestions do not help, take your pet to the veterinarian for medical treatment, which includes intravenous fluids and electrolytes to help bring the system back into balance.

Posted on 18 Jul 2006

Clell Bagley
Extension vetrinarian

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