by A. Grano on April 4th, 2011 at 7:00 am
With warmer weather upon us, preventing heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps in our pets becomes a top concern. Do you recall last summer when getting out of the car or opening your front door your face was assaulted with intensely humid, sticky hot air? The temperature-humidity index, otherwise known as the heat index, can be likened to the wind chill factor during winter when the wind makes the temperature feel chillier than it actually is.
When the air is humid, perspiration does not evaporate as readily as it would do when the air is dryer – this in turn results in people and animals not being able to cool down as efficiently and making the risk of heat stroke much more likely.
Which pets are more at risk than others?
Pets at greater risk of developing heat-related illness include:
- Puppies and kittens up to 6 months of age
- Geriatric pets, i.e. large breed dogs over 7 years of age, small breed dogs over 10 years of age and cats over 12 years of age
- Pets who are overweight
- Pets who overwork or overexert themselves during exercise
- Pets who are ill or on certain medications
- Brachycephalic pets (such as bulldogs or pugs) or those who have a history of an airway obstruction- they are more likely to display symptoms of overheating faster, such as rapid breathing
- Any pet that suffers from fever, dehydration, heart disease or poor circulation
What precautions should I take?
Being prepared is important. It is good to remember that even during spring time the heat turns up considerably. Pets just recovering from the cold, winter months will be initially unused to the warmer weather and will still have remnants of their winter coats. So get them prepared even before the real summer heat rolls in!
- The first and most crucial line of defense is water – and enough of it. A body that is not hydrated enough is more susceptible to the devastations of heat stroke. An easily transportable water container, dish or pet quencher will give your pet clear, cool water anywhere and anytime they need it. The backyard is not only a pet’s playground but also serves as an ideal area for offering your furry companion cool water. Supply a shallow pond in which your pet can safely and enjoyably play and cool down at the same time. The hose is also a wonderful help in cooling down over-heated animals – however, be sure to get your pet used to it first and hose the paws before you move to drench him entirely.
- One of the main areas in which heat can increase rapidly is inside a sealed car. Did you know that a sealed car can turn up the heat by 5 degrees in just 30 minutes? The expression “baking in the car” can be almost taken literally. Never leave your pet in the car for even 5 minutes unless it is underground or in full shade, and make sure there is enough air available if you do. If you worry about car theft, invest in a simple yet strong pet vent that will lock into your window, allowing air to ventilate through while being safely locked at the same time. A window shade also helps to protect your pet from the glaring rays while traveling in the car.
- Make sure that you brush your dog every day when the warm weather starts, to remove excess winter coat and dead fur. If your pet has a very thick coat, consider clipping or shaving in preparation for the summer ahead. However, be careful not to trim too much, as your pet can then become vulnerable to sunburn.
- Watch out for fertilizers and lethal plants. Summer is often the time people put tender loving care into their garden, resulting in fertilizers being used on their lawns. Plant food, fertilizer, and insecticides can be fatal if your pet ingests them. In addition, more than 700 plants can produce physiologically active or toxic substances in sufficient amounts to cause harmful effects in animals.
Additional tips to keep in mind
- Exercise for your pets during the coolest times (i.e., early in the morning and/or late at night) and minimize exercise during hot weather
- Limit exposure to the sun during midday
- Keep your furry friends in the house in a comfortable area during extreme weather conditions if possible
- Be sure to leave your pet’s water in a shady area and be extra vigilant that puppies and kittens hydrate themselves enough. Remember that your pet will only drink when his temperature is back to normal, so when out on a walk allow time to rest and cool down in a shady spot and offer water frequently.
If you pet is showing any symptoms of distress or you suspect your pet is showing signs of over-exposure to heat, do not hesitate to contact your vet immediately.