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Keeping pets safe from the summer heat


Staff Report

Just as people take precautions in dealing with the heat, owners need to do the same for their pets, said Dr. Carolynn MacAllister, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension veterinarian. “Heat exhaustion is just as dangerous for animals as it is for humans. A parent should never leave a child closed up in a parked car, and the same should hold true for animals,” MacAllister said. “Parking and leaving your pet in the car for even a few minutes can be deadly. Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do, they rely on panting to cool themselves and when confined in an enclosure with poor ventilation such as a parked car, panting can be a very inefficient cooling mechanism, and the dog will quickly suffer from heat stress.” When the environmental temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside of a vehicle can quickly reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Cars heat up very quickly, even when parked in the shade with the windows cracked. If a pet owner needs to run errands and is unable to take the animal inside with them, it is best to just leave the pet at home. Shade is an absolute must for pets that live outdoors. Do not tether your animals because the tether (leash/rope) can become tangled and the animal may be 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 are traveling with your pet in the car make sure the animal is properly restrained while the vehicle is moving.

“Pets need to keep their heads inside the vehicle and never let your pet ride in the bed of a truck,” MacAllister said. . If you enjoy jogging with your pet, keep in mind that over exertion in hot weather can easily cause pets to overheat quickly, especially in humid weather.

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

“An animal’s coat protects their skin and can actually trap cooler air next to their body and help keep them cool.” She said. Clinical signs of a pet 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 or vomiting, coma and even death. Emergency treatment for this condition includes sponging the animal’s neck and groin area with cool water till their body temperature is lowered or returns to normal. Contact your veterinarian immediately because the pet may require further treatment to prevent serious complications that can occur with heat stress. So even though the sun is shining, the kids are out of school and it is fun to get outside to enjoy some recreational activities, remember most pets are like part of the family so you will want to keep an eye on their behavior and make sure they are safe while enjoying summertime fun.

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