Thursday, June 14, 2012
Pet Smarts: Heat stroke a real risk for pets; know how to keep them safe this summer
By Dr. Mara Wendel
Sheabel Pet Care Center
Summer is here, and whether you enjoy relaxing in the sun with your furry friend or taking your dog out to play or swim, this is a great season to enjoy time with our pets. Unfortunately, hyperthermia (or heat stroke), is a real risk here in Kentucky. Every summer we see a number of pets who become ill or die due to their internal body temperature becoming too high. Here are a few tips to help you keep your pets safe in the summer heat.
Avoid situations that commonly result in heat stroke. Do not leave your pet in the car for any length of time on warm days. Even on relatively nice summer days, the temperature inside the car can rise well above the outdoor temperature. Also, do not leave your pet outside without adequate shade and fresh water. If your yard or dog kennel become hot during the day, consider keeping your pet inside during really hot summer days.
Use caution when exercising your dog in extremely hot and humid weather. Getting your dog out for a walk or to the dog park early in the morning or late in the evening is the best way to avoid the summer heat. Even then, consider taking a shorter walk than normal or don’t allow them to play quite so hard as they usually would.
Provide a cool place for your pet to recover from hot conditions. Ideally, a pet can be brought into air-conditioning or otherwise provided a shaded area with a fan. Also, provide your pet with fresh, cool water, but never force water into its mouths. For those dogs that love to play in water, letting them take a dip in a creek or providing a kiddy pool for them to walk through in the backyard are examples of ways to help them stay cool.
Watch for signs of heat stroke. Often, dogs appear restless and cannot stop panting. Cats will breathe with their mouths open when they are in distress, and some pets will drool excessively. As the hyperthermia progresses, pets may appear unsteady, weak or nonresponsive. By the time they have made it to this level of heat stroke, they are in a very dangerous situation. It is best to recognize early signs of becoming overheated and transport your pet to the closest veterinary clinic.
If you think your pet is having a heat stroke, start the cooling process on the way to your veterinarian. Lay wet, cool towels across its neck, groin and armpit regions. Pets cannot sweat the same way that people can to evaporate heat, but they can evaporate some heat through the pads of their feet. Wetting the pads and flaps of their ears with cool water also can help. Although it is tempting to use ice-cold water or to completely submerge your pet in cool water, this can actually worsen the situation. Very cold water causes superficial blood vessels in the skin to constrict and actually slows down cooling of your pet’s internal body temperature. Cool tap water is the safest and most effective.
Now you know how to stay safe while enjoying the summer months with your pets! Remember these tips to avoid getting in a bad situation, and most importantly remember to seek immediate veterinary attention for your pet if you notice any signs of heat stroke.
Dr. Mara Wendel is a veterinarian at sheabelpets.com. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from Cornell University in 2005. Wendel then returned home to Ames, Iowa, to attend veterinary school at Iowa State University. After graduation, she moved to Lexington to work at Rood and Riddle as an equine veterinarian for two years before joining Sheabel.