Protecting pets when the mercury rises

SAN DIEGO COUNTY – Many people anxiously await the return of summer when they can wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts as temperatures warm up. Although humans are able to compensate in the heat by dressing accordingly, pets are not so lucky.

Pets can have a difficult time when the temperature soars. Certain animals, such as reptiles or tropical birds, are acclimated to hot temperatures. But other pets, including dogs, cats and even some small animals, can easily overheat and dehydrate. When the weather warrants cranking up the air conditioning, pet owners should pay special attention to pets to ensure they are comfortable and not suffering from summer heat.

• Schedule a check-up with the veterinarian. Prior to the dog days of summer, make an appointment with the veterinarian for a well visit to ensure any preventive care measures are taken. This is the time to refill flea and tick medications and also to have the animal checked for heartworm. Insects that transmit diseases are more prevalent in the warm weather, and more time spent outdoors can put pets at greater risk of insect bites or infestations.

• Get to know the pet. Pets display different behaviors and signals when they are feeling unwell. Heavy panting may be an indication that a dog is hot or not feeling well, while other dogs may pant for no apparent reason. Recognizing baseline behavior for a pet can make identifying a problem that much easier.

• Keep plenty of water available. Hot weather can cause a pet to use up its fluid stores much more quickly than when it is cooler outside. Before leaving the house, be sure each pet’s water bowl is topped off. Think about putting some ice cubes in the water to slowly melt and keep it cool, but make sure the pet won’t attempt to chew the ice cubes, which can be hazardous. Water bottles in small animal cages should be topped off and regularly checked.

• Know which pets are most at risk. Older, younger, overweight, and snub-nosed animals (think pugs, shih tzus, Persian cats, etc.) don’t tolerate the heat as well as other animals. Use special caution when it is hot outside for these animals, and check on them frequently.

• Don’t shave fur too short. The idea that shaving a dog (or cat) close to the skin might help them keep cool is a popular notion. While some longer-haired breeds may need a trim to keep cool, resist the urge to shave fur all the way off. This puts pets at risk for sunburn and skin irritation.

• Keep exercise to a minimum. Humans often feel lazy when the temperature soars and so may their pets. Overexertion during hot weather can lead to heat stroke, signs of which include panting, drooling, rapid pulse, and fever. Try to walk dogs early in the morning or late at night when the temperature is cooler. Do not keep animals chained up outdoors or sitting in hot windows during peak hours of the day.

• Supervise water play. Some pets are natural swimmers, while others are not. Do not allow pets to go unsupervised around a pool or another source of water. They may be tempted to cool off, but they may not be able to stay afloat.

• Be cautious of fireworks. Warm weather and fireworks seem to be common companions. The ASPCA advises that fireworks can result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets. Even unlit fireworks — which are made from potentially toxic substances — can be hazardous if they are licked or consumed.

Pet owners should use common sense regarding their pets and hot weather. Chances are if the owner is uncomfortable in the heat, so is their pet.

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