Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hot Weather Tips for Pet Owners

By Lexiann Grant

With hot weather in full swing, here are some tips to help your pet get through the summer.

Never leave your pet shut in an automobile during hot weather. Temperatures rise quickly in closed vehicles and your dog can suffer heatstroke and die.

Don't leave your pet outside without access to a cool, shady area. Dog houses should be placed in the shade as temperatures inside these shelters rise higher than outdoor air if they receive direct sunlight most of the day.

Indoor pets who are not allowed in all areas of your house should have access to cooler rooms such as basements, baths or kitchens with tile floors. Avoid keeping your dog or cat in the garage, utility or laundry areas – rooms which are usually very warm. If your pet stays in a cooler room, they’ll be more comfortable should the air conditioning in your home fail.

Bring outdoor pets inside during extreme heat waves. For homes without air conditioning, try dumping ice in a tub, then place a fan where it blows air directly across the ice and towards one of your pet’s nap areas.

If a shelter isn't safe for you during stormy summer weather, then it’s not safe for your pet either. Secure kennels and dog houses out of the way of falling limbs and where they are protected from high winds, lightning and hail.

Should the necessity arise to leave your home due to severe conditions such as floods or tornadoes, take your pet with you. Do not leave them to fend for themselves and possibly become lost or die. To ensure their safe return home if you are separated during a weather disaster, keep a current name and phone number identification tag on your pet's collar.

Whether indoors or out, make certain that your pet has plenty of fresh water. High temperatures and changes in humidity increase your animal's need for water. Fill large, spill-proof containers with chilled water. Place bowls where the sun won’t shine directly on them.

You may want to feed a lighter diet in summer. Some animals are more lethargic in hotter weather. Check with your vet for a recommendation.

All dogs, and even cats restricted to the indoors, are susceptible to insect bites and parasite infestations during warmer months. Use appropriate products to kill or prevent fleas, ticks and helminths. Ask your veterinarian which products are best for your pet. Outings during the summer can also be insect free if you apply a pet-safe insect repellant. Don't use products designed for humans.

Exercise your dog with caution during hot or humid weather, particularly if he has a health problem like heart disease. When walking in unshaded areas, shield your dog's body with your own, thereby creating a little shade for your pet.

Remember that your dog is "barefooted.” Prevent burned pads – don’t walk your dog on hot surfaces such as blacktop or concrete. Avoid taking your dog for walks in mid-afternoon when temperatures are highest; try early morning or evening walks instead.

Dogs that swim alone can drown as easily as people. If you have a pool, provide steps where your pet can exit easily. When swimming in a lake or river keep your dog safe from undercurrents or unseen hazards beneath the surface.

Don't clip or shave your pet's fur unless your vet or groomer recommends it, since a pet's fur acts as insulation. Hairless breeds may need sunscreens when they’re outdoors to prevent burning.

Dogs and cats can’t handle high temperatures as well as humans. Pets with heavier fur or brachycephalic noses, like Pugs or Persians, are at risk for over-heating more quickly, but all pets can be the victims of heat prostration (or exhaustion), and heat or sun stroke. Know the warning signs and how to treat the condition.

Symptoms include: panting, rapid or labored breathing; tongue and mouth membranes turn bright red; confusion, disorientation; body temperatures of 104 degrees or higher; weakness; vomiting, sometimes with diarrhea; and, unconsciousness or coma.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Treat immediately by wetting your pet’s fur thoroughly or wrapping your pet in a cool, wet towel. After your pet begins to cool, allow them small licks of water from melting ice cubes. Get your pet to a veterinarian immediately for additional treatment.

Have a safe summer, and may you and your pet stay cool.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

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