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Protecting Your Pets from the Summer Heat

"Your furry friends need extra care during the hot season too!"
By: James BarramedaProtecting Your Pets from the Summer Heat

Unlike people, pets have very limited ability to naturally cool down their body temperature. Although dogs have sweat glands, they’re only located on their foot pads. The main mechanism for the canine body to cool down on its own is through panting, which allows evaporation of water from your dog’s respiratory tract. However, these normal mechanisms can get overwhelmed when your dog is exposed to extreme heat. The elevation in body temperature can cause his body to release substances that cause inflammation. He can develop hyperthermia and heat stroke.

What is hyperthermia and heat stroke?

Hyperthermia happens when body temperature is elevated above the generally accepted normal range. Although normal temperature ranges for dogs vary, it is typically accepted that temperatures above 103°F or 39°C are considered abnormal.

There are actually two categories of hyperthermia - fever or nonfever. Fever hyperthermia results when there is inflammation such as the type that occurs when your dog has a bacterial infection. Nonfever hyperthermia, on the other hand, results from all other causes of increased body temperature like when your dog exercises too much, when he has abnormally high amounts of thyroid hormones in the body, or when he has lesions in the part of the brain that regulates body temperature. 

Heatstroke is a form of nonfever hyperthermia. It develops when your dog cannot handle too much exposure to heat. Heatstroke can lead to failure of vital organs, resulting to death.

Which ones are more at risk?

Since pets come in different shapes and sizes, there are those that are more prone to developing heat related illnesses. Take extra precaution if your dog is:

  • a puppy, up to six months old
  • large and over the age of 7 years
  • small and over 14 years old
  • a pug, an English bulldog, a Boston terrier or any breed that is short with wide head and smushed face
  • heavy coated
  • overweight
  • over exercised
  • currently ill or on medication
  • already dehydrated  or has limited access to water

What are the signs of overheating?

Check your pet right away for warning signs! The earlier you find out about his condition, the higher the likelihood you can still nurse him back to wellness.

  • bright red tongue, gums, and eyes
  • sluggishness
  • excessive panting
  • unresponsiveness
  • appearing disorientated
  • uncoordinated, wobbly movement
  • rapid heart rate
  • irregular heart beat
  • high body temperature
  • noisy breathing
  • muscle tremors

Tips to keep ‘em cool

  1. Give them some shade – If you build your dog a cute small house, make sure it is designed to allow ample ventilation. If unsure about all this, best to keep them indoors up until the sun becomes a little more forgiving in the later hours of the afternoon.
  2. Give them access to lots of cool and clean drinking water – do this especially if you’re going out on a trip or if you’re leaving your pet at home unattended for several hours. If it’s extremely hot outside, you may opt to add ice cubes in their trays to keep the water cool longer during the day. Adding a big basin of water beside their homes for wading or bathing is also a good idea during the summer months.
  3. NEVER leave your pet in the car – NEVER! Not even with the windows down! A parked metal car under the sun can quickly turn into an oven with the poor thing inside it.
  4. If you need to walk your pets outside, do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon (or better yet, at night). Lead them to grass or soil terrain where the surface isnt hot. Avoid cement, sand or rocky pavements as these surfaces might burn their paws.
  5. Do not bring your pet to the beach! If you really really want to bring him, make sure you find a cool spot for him. Don’t leave him out to play on the hot sand by himself as sand and saltwater can affect his ability to cool down afterwards.
  6. Take pity on young puppies and older dogs as well by keeping them safe indoors where it’s cool and well ventilated. Spare them the agony of having to travel under the heat of the sun.
  7. Protect your pets from fleas, ticks and other pests that thrive during hot days.
  8. Ask your vet first before shaving your pet’s coat. Though it seems like a good idea to shave your furry friend during summer, it may actually be counterproductive for certain breeds.
  9. If it’s a hot afternoon, let them play with water. Either go swimming or play with your pet with a hose or water sprinkler. This also doubles as his exercise time with you.

In case of emergency…

If your pet shows any signs of heat-related illnesses, bring him to a veterinarian immediately. Before doing so, keep him cool by wrapping him in towels that have been soaked in cool water. This should immediately lower his body temperature. Give him some ice chips to chew but make sure not to place ice on his body as this can actually hurt his skin. The earlier you catch the symptoms, the better the chances of saving your little friend.

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