By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Summer has arrived with a vengeance and Oklahomans are feeling the heat and so are their furry friends.
“Pet owners who enjoy spending time outdoors in the warm weather often bring their pets along,” said Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University.
“Just as a person takes heat precautions for themselves, they should do the same for their pets,” she said.
With the 4th of July just around the corner, it is important to remember that many pets are disturbed by the loud sounds of fireworks. Keep your pets safe from the noise in a quiet, sheltered and escape-proof area at home.
“July 5 is our busiest day of the year. So many pets get loose the night before because of the noise from fireworks and activity during parties,” said Animal Welfare Superintendent Julie Bank. “We get hundreds of calls from people who lose their pets.”
Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns and/or trauma to the face and paws of curious pets. Even unused fireworks can pose a danger, containing potentially toxic substances, including potassium nitrate or other heavy metals.
“Heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, occurs when your pet severely overheats,” Giedt said. “Heat exhaustion can be even more dangerous for animals than it is for humans because they don’t sweat like people do.”
“Dogs 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, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”
According to the Humane Society of the United States, on an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly, even in the shade, can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Pets may suffer irreversible organ damage or even die.
This is especially true for young, old or overweight dogs and cats. Brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs, English bulldogs and Persian cats are especially susceptible.
Shade is required for pets that live confined to the yard. Do not tether a pet as the leash or rope can become tangled sometimes stranding the animal in the sun.
Outdoor 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 each morning.
“Providing a shady and well-ventilated spot for outdoor pets will keep them cooler. You can even place some cold, wet towels in your pet’s sleeping area,” Giedt said. “If your pet sleeps in a dog house, wet towels are especially good because the temperature inside the house can get quite hot.”
Many pet owners enjoy jogging with their pets, but over exertion in hot weather can easily cause them to overheat, especially long hair breeds. Plus, the pavement can burn the pads of your pup/s feet.
Clinical signs a dog is suffering from heat stress or stroke may include body temperature 104 degrees Fahrenheit or above, elevated 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 its body temperature is lowered. Contact your veterinarian immediately, as the pet may require further treatment.
According to the ASPCA, a ‘summer cut’ is okay, but never shave your dog: The layers of dogs’ coats protect them from overheating and sunburn.
“Your veterinarian is a great source of information about keeping your pet safe during the summer heat,” Giedt added. “Keep in mind your pet depends on you to provide the very best care possible.”
Before a summer storm strikes, create a disaster plan to keep pets safe by keeping a collar with tags and a leash handy at all times. If possible, have your dog microchipped.
Animal Welfare Superintendent Julie Bank said. “Bring your animals inside when the temperatures become too extreme. If it’s too hot for you outside, it’s too hot for your pets.”