JACKSONVILLE — Editor’s Note: This is part two of our Beat the Heat series. For pet safety tips for the Fourth of July, please see page 3. For more information on how to keep your children safe in the car in hot wearther, please see page 5.
Summer heat means taking precautions with your pet's health, too.
Like people, cats and dogs are subject to overheating and heatstroke, so cooler weather routines must be adjusted as temperatures rise.
“One of the main things I see this time of year, with the first 90-degree days – especially as humid as it has been – are dogs overheating,” said Dr. Anthony Holcomb, a Rusk veterinarian, who with Dr. Will Prachyl, operates Cherokee Animal Clinic.
Even when an animal like a dog is used to chasing after four-wheelers or working with their owners to herd livestock, as it gets hotter, “they really need to take a lot of breaks, (with) a lot of water, to cool off,” he said. “And a lot of times that's even the dogs who are in good shape, not just house dogs.”
In a newsletter published on its website, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Erie County, New York, reminded pet owners of the dangers of high temperatures.
“Heatstroke can kill, and fast,” the release states. “Most pet owners realize that keeping pets in a hot car can kill them … but not many realize just how quickly the effects of heatstroke can set in for a dog or cat.”
Heatstroke, it added, is a gradual condition that can accelerate quickly, and it's often easy for signs to go unrecognized.
“On warm days, a vehicle acts like an oven. It holds the heat inside and that heat becomes very intense on days that don't seem to warm. On an 85-degree day, for example, even with the windows open, the temperature inside a car can climb to 102 degrees in 10 minutes, and 120 degrees in 30 minutes,” the SPCA said, adding that when factoring in humidity, that can create even higher temps.
And because a dog's average body temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees, the animal can only withstand a slightly higher body temperature “for a very short time before suffering irreparable brain damage or death,” the release states.
And, as Dr. Holcomb pointed out, an animal can simply be outdoors and still experience the effects of high temperatures and humidity.
“This time of year, especially, it doesn't take but just a couple of seconds for them to get overheated (and if their body temperature rises above 106 or 107 degrees) they start having seizures,” he said.
When an animal is in distress, symptoms can include disorientation, heavy panting and seizures “that progressively get worse with severe overheating,” he added. “The animal (is generally) acting out of character.”
Pet owners need to help the animals cool down slowly, to help better regulate body temperature in a safe manner.
“Help them cool off, but not too quickly – you wouldn't want to put them in front of an air conditioner or (flush them with) cold ice or cold water, but take them to a cool spot and (use) cool water” to help them, Holcomb said. “You gradually want to help them cool down, not quickly.”
In general, people are mindful of their pets needs when it comes to extreme weather, he said.
They ensure there is an abundant supply of cool, fresh for their animals, they provide a cooler spot for them to rest outdoors, they curb heavy activity, especially during the heat of the day.
Other tips include:
• Using a towel soaked in cool water and moistening an animals neck and the pads of its feet to help it cool down.
• Allowing them to lick on ice or frozen treats, “just like you'd do for kids,” Holcomb said.
• Trimming the fur of long-haired animals – including cats – to allow their bodies to cool more easily. However, an animal that is closely shaved may be more susceptible to sunburn, so leave enough hair to protect their skin.
• Owners should limit dog-walking to early-morning and late-evening hours, avoiding peak periods of heat during the day. Also be sure to carry water for the animal to keep him hydrated.
• Don't force your dog to overexert itself in hot weather. Working dogs – like those who help herd cattle – should take lots of breaks to ensure against heat stroke.
• Help cats stay cool by moistening the pads of their paws with water, and their heads, too. Especially the ears.
• If the animal is an indoor pet, limit its time outside, keeping it to shaded and cool areas of the property.