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Beating the Heat – How to Protect your Pet in the Summer
By: Leslie Carr, DVM
The heat and humidity are here for the next few months! As you know when the thermometer reads 78 degrees, it just might feel like 92! Why is that? Temperature is multiplied by humidity creating what is called the heat index!
How can this affect your pet?
Any time the humidity is equal to or greater than 65% and the temperature is over 85 degrees, your pet should not be outside for more than 15 minutes. When the humidity is high, perspiration cannot evaporate as easily. Dogs and cats only have sweat glands in the pads of their feet where they would perspire. So, when they touch the hot summer ground it may hinder their body’s ability to perspire. Another way that helps your pet stay cool is when s/he pants.
Heat-related illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps, and can occur after exposure to extremely high temperatures. All of these illnesses can occur in all mammals and all can be prevented by taking precautions. Those at greatest risk of heat-related illness include:
- Puppies and kittens up to 6 months of age
- Geriatric pets (large breed dogs over 7 years of age, small breed dogs over 14 years of age, cats over 12 years of age)
- Pets who are overweight
- Pets who overexert during work or exercise
- Pets who are ill or on certain medications
- Brachycephalic pets (such as bulldogs or pugs) or pets with a history of an airway obstruction
- Those with fever, dehydration, heart disease or poor circulation
How can you protect your pet?
- Don’t let your dog linger on hot surfaces like asphalt and cement. Being so close to the ground can heat their body quickly and is also an invitation to burns on sensitive paw pads.
- Keep walks to a minimum.
- Giving your dog a lightweight summer haircut can help prevent overheating, but never shave to the skin, the dog needs one-inch of protection to avoid getting sunburned.
- Provide access to fresh water at all times.
- Make certain an outside dog has access to shade and plenty of cool water.
- Restrict exercise when temperatures soar
- Do not muzzle your dog. Doing so inhibits their ability to pant.
- Many dogs enjoy a swim, splashing in a wading pool, or a run through a sprinkler helping bring their body temperatures down.
- NEVER leave your pet in a parked car, not even if you park in the shade or plan to be gone for only a few minutes. The temperature inside of a car can reach oven-like temperatures in just minutes. When it is 90 degrees outside your car can reach 120 degrees in 20 mins. Just running a quick errand can turn into a disaster and could be fatal for your pet.
For more information or if you are concerned about your pet and notice any signs of heat exhaustion please contact us immediately at 410-544-1130.