Farm Talk

July 16, 2013

Keep safety in mind when enjoying summer weather with pets

Trisha Gedon
CNHI

Parsons, Kansas — Oklahoma has experienced some seriously turbulent weather this spring, and it will not be long until the thermometer is reading triple digits.

Pet owners who enjoy warm weather activities often let their four-legged friends tag along. Just as a person takes heat precautions for themselves, they should do the same for their pets, said Dr. Joe Howell, interim director, Office of Veterinary Continuing Education at Oklahoma State University.

“Most people enjoy soaking up some sun, but the heat can take a toll on you and your pet. Heat exhaustion can be even more dangerous for animals than it is for humans,” Howell said. “Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do. They rely on panting to cool themselves. If an animal is confined to an enclosed space with poor ventilation, such as inside of a car or garage, it can quickly suffer from heat stress or heat exhaustion.”

The interior of a car heats up very quickly, even if parked in the shade with the windows cracked. It is never a good idea to leave your pet in a parked vehicle, even for just a few minutes. When the environmental temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside of a vehicle can quickly reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Shade is an absolute must for pets that live confined to a yard. Do not tether your animals because the tether (leash/rope) can become tangled and the animal could get stranded in the sun. In addition, these animals require a continuous supply of cool water in containers that cannot be tipped over. If possible put ice cubes or small frozen containers of water in the pet’s water bowl every morning. This will help the water stay cool longer.

If you enjoying jogging with your pet keep in mind that over exertion in hot weather can easily cause pets to overheat quickly, especially in long hair breeds. Humid weather makes them even more susceptible to heat exhaustion, even if the dog jogs with you every day in cooler weather and is in excellent shape.

Howell said clinical signs of a dog that is overheated or a victim of heat stress may include elevated body temperature and heart rate, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staring and unresponsive, staggering, seizures, bloody diarrhea, vomiting or even in a state of collapse.

Emergency treatment for this condition includes sponging the animal’s neck and groin area with cool water till their body temperature is lowered. Contact your veterinarian immediately because the pet may require further treatment to prevent serious complications that can occur with heat stress.  

Some pet owners believe clipping a dog’s hair coat will help pets stay cool during the summer months. However, Howell said some hair left on the dog can protect the skin and if the hair is clipped too short, the skin can burn, just as human skin does.

“I don’t recommend across-the-board clipping of dogs, but those animals that have a heavy thick coat may need to have their hair coat trimmed. Talk to your veterinarian about what kind of clip would be beneficial,” he said. “Some animal’s coat protects their skin and can actually trap cooler air next to their body and help keep them cool on hot summer days. Talking with your veterinarian would be the best way to get advice for your dog and their needs for summer.” £