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Keep safety in mind when enjoying summer with your pets

Pet owners who enjoy the outdoors should take precautions that their furry family members aren’t exposed to overheating in the hot summer months. Photo by Darla Shelden.
Pet owners who enjoy the outdoors should take precautions that their furry family members aren’t exposed to overheating in the hot summer months. Photo by Darla Shelden.

By Darla Shelden
Contributing Writer

This spring Oklahoma has experienced some seriously tumultuous weather and very soon the thermometer will reach triple digits. Pet owners who enjoy outdoor, summer activities often want their four-legged friends to come 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,” Howell said. “Heat exhaustion can be even more dangerous for animals than it is for humans. 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.”

A study from Stanford University shows that even on a comparatively cool day of 72 degrees, a car’s internal temperature will reach 116 degrees fahrenheit within 60 minutes. That can occur even if it is parked in the shade with the windows down slightly.

Fourteen states have statutes that make it illegal to leave an animal in a confined vehicle. Even without a specific state or local law, this action could still constitute animal cruelty under some circumstances.

Christy Counts, President at Oklahoma Humane Society said, “Oklahoma can be a dangerous place for pets in the hot summer months. Even mostly indoor pets can be susceptible to heat stroke when left outside for short periods of time.

“Pet owners must be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke. Beginning warning signs to watch for are excessive panting and salivating. Additionally, be aware of excessive thirst, red skin, pale gums, dizziness, lethargy and lastly unconsciousness.”

Shade is a necessity for pets that live confined to a yard. Do not tether your animals and leave them alone outside. The leash or rope can become tangled and the animal could get stranded in the sun.

Make sure your pet has an unlimited supply of water. If possible every morning put ice cubes in a water bowl that cannot be tipped over.
Joggers who take their pets with them should keep in mind that over exertion in hot weather can cause pets to overheat quickly, especially long hair breeds.

Emergency treatment for heat stress includes sponging the animal’s neck and groin area with cool water until their body temperature is lowered.
Owners should contact their veterinarian immediately because the pet may require further treatment.

According to the ASPCA website, animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

ASPCA also advises owners to leave pets at home during Fourth of July celebrations and to never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and even unused fireworks can be hazardous.

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

Howell said, “I don’t recommend across-the-board clipping of dogs, but those animals that have a heavy thick coat may need to have their coat trimmed.
“The coats of some animal’s 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.”

As with children, it is advised to keep an eye on animals in and around swimming pools. Make sure one of the first things your pet learns is how to get out of the pool.

If you are going out on one of the many Oklahoma lakes with your pet, consider using a doggie life jacket.

Counts added, “Each year pets lose their lives from heat stroke in Oklahoma. Be sure to protect your pet this summer. It can happen very fast and is a needless tragedy.”

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