Summertime Pet Safety
By Sandy Beck
Living in Florida presents certain challenges for pet owners. Our doctor is fond of telling us, “It’s good to exercise only on days that you eat.” This goes for dogs too. But exercising in the summertime sun and humidity can be tricky. This time of year, it’s best to time walks for the early morning or evening. If you’re hot, your dog, with his less effective cooling system, is much hotter.
If you have to be outdoors the rest of the day, stay in the shade and carry enough water for both of you. Walk your dog on the grass if possible; asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws.
For people, cooling off is no sweat. Well, actually it is. Sweat on the surface of our skin cools us as it evaporates. Dogs and cats cool themselves mostly by panting. If the humidity is very high, panting is less efficient and their body temperature may soar quickly.
Too much exercise or exposure to the sun on a hot day can lead to hyperthermia and eventually to heat stroke. If your pet’s temperature rises above 103 degrees, he may suffer heat exhaustion. At 107 degrees, he is at risk for heat stroke, which can lead to brain damage and even death.
Some pets are at greater risk for heat stroke: puppies and kittens; animals who are overweight or on certain medications; pets with short snouts, such as pugs, boxers and bulldogs; and animals with dark fur. Taking a pet's temperature rectally will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem.
Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.
Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply cool, wet towels to his head, neck, chest and feet, or run cool (not cold) water over him. Let him drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Recheck body temperature. When his temperature is 103 degrees, dry his fur and take him to a veterinarian.
Certainly, never leave a pet in a parked car—even in the shade, even with the window open. A metal car can heat up like a tin can.
During the summer, the floor of a truck bed may become burning hot. Dogs riding in the hot sun without shade or water are also at risk for heat stroke. If you love your dog, let him ride in the cab next to you so you will both arrive safe and sound.
A dog left in the backyard can not only become lonely and prone to barking, but leaving a dog in the summer heat without sufficient shade or with an accidently overturned water bowl, can be disastrous. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.
Make time for your pet every day, all year long. This little soul depends on you for everything—love, security and exercise. But on a hot summer afternoon, what he might appreciate most is a cushy pillow in your air-conditioned house. Oh, yeah.