Archive for Sunday, May 9, 2004

Pets need more attention in hot months

May 9, 2004


As the heat of summer approaches, so does discomfort and even danger to both humans and pets.

However, with a few preparations and a little common sense, you and your pet can bear and survive the summer heat.

It is important to remember that some pets may have a harder time dealing with the heat and humidity. So if your pet fits into one of the following categories, be sure to monitor that pet carefully.

Dogs with short muzzles (brachycephalic breeds), such as pugs, Boston terriers and bulldogs, do not handle high temperatures and humidity at all and should be housed inside. Obese pets can also have difficulty with the heat.

Of course, the very young pets under 6 months and the geriatric pets are also considered to be at higher risk for heat-related problems. Finally, if you have a pet that has a chronic illness or is on medication, you may want to use caution as well.

For outdoor pets, it is critical to provide a few essentials:

l Pets enjoy clean and cool water. For owners of large dogs or for those of you with multiple pets, you may find that a large bucket may do a better job of providing a sufficient quantity of water throughout the day instead of a couple of bowls. Remember to make sure that your pet cannot tip over the water containers and place them in a shaded or covered area in the yard. Another fun way to provide cool water and some summer fun for your pets is with the use of sprinklers or a small baby pool.

l Adequate shade and shelter from the hot sun. If you leave your pets outside, they must have plenty of shaded areas to relax in at all hours of the day, not just for certain hours.

l Summertime grooming is also another ritual for many pets both indoor and outdoor. Typically, it is rarely, if ever, recommended to shave your pet down to the skin. That delicate skin is extremely susceptible to severe sunburn and other skin problems. It is definitely best to consult with your groomer first, since they know your pet's skin best.

Remember to check on your outdoor pets periodically throughout the day to ensure that they are handling the high heat and humidity well. Observe their activity and feeding habits, which can normally be somewhat reduced, but neither one should be extremely depressed. It is advisable to make indoor accommodations if the heat and humidity become too much for any pet. Any signs of heat stress or heat stroke require immediate veterinary attention.

For dog owners, like myself, who enjoy their daily run/walk with their companion, it is essential not to overdo it when the temperature and humidity reach suffocating levels. It is advisable to exercise your dog in the early morning or late evening hours. Remember that sidewalks, roadways and beach sand can be blistering hot and can burn the pads on your dog's feet. So always check the surface you and your dog will be exercising on to prevent serious injury.

Unfortunately, I must reiterate the point of not leaving your pet inside any vehicle even for one minute during any time of the day.

- Dr. Tracy Acosta is a veterinarian at Biloxi (Miss.) Animal Hospital.

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