The dog days of summer

August 1, 2011

Dr. Peek with the East Ridge Veterinary Hospital in Sweetwater (shown) offers tips to owners to help pets deal with the season as heat rises.

We call them the dog days of summer, but how do dogs deal with the summer days (and other pets, too)? As the season drags on and the heat rises, pet owners can ensure the best care for their animals by taking a series of steps.
"The extreme summer temperatures we're seeing pose special risk for pets that owners should be aware of. Of course everyone is aware of the need for adequate water and shade and of the dangers of leaving pets in the car," said Dr. Jerod Peek, a local veterinarian from the East Ridge Veterinary Hospital.
Dr. Peek knows that the weather plays an important factor in pet safety and offers locals an assortment of tips for pet owners, several which fall in line with four high-profile names in the world of animal care — PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association), the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association).
The four entities suggest to keep animals inside during the extreme weather, but for outdoor pets, Dr. Peek recommends to provide several water bowls. "This will insure a water source in the event the primary water bowl is inadvertently tipped over."
Also for outdoor pets, Dr. Peek warns about the pitfalls of a cluttered yard in Fido's efforts to get some shade. "If your dog is tethered in the yard, make sure the yard is free of obstacles that the tether might become ensnared on."
And for those pets that may not be tied up, Dr. Peek says, "Make sure that the doors of any sheds or out buildings are secure to prevent your pet from becoming accidentally trapped inside." He also suggests that before closings car doors and trunk lids — if they have been open for a period of time, check inside to make sure it's clear of "curious neighborhood cats."
In addition, should you or your fuzzy friend need some outdoor exercise, the experts suggest to only walk your pet at a light pace. Dr. Peek also advises early morning walks to steer clear of the midday temperatures and hot asphalt from streets and sidewalks that can burn or blister the pet's paws.
During the exercise, experts encourage pet owners to have water available to keep him hydrated. However, Dr. Peek notes, "If your pet should be without water for an extended period, re-hydration should be done gradually. Don't allow your pet to drink large volumes of water rapidly as this can cause life threatening electrolyte imbalances."
The four groups also stated that if your four-legged friend begins to pant heavily or seems exhausted or overheated, call it a day and head back indoors. In this instance, Dr. Peek says that wetting the pet down can prove to be beneficial, but also adds, "More serious overheating should be considered an emergency requiring immediate veterinary treatment."
But according to Dr. Peek, some pets are at a higher risk during the extreme weather. "This would include pets with very dark colored or heavy hair coats, overweight pets and those dogs that are members of the brachiocephalic breeds," said Dr. Peek.
Brachiocephalic breeds, explained Dr. Peek, are described as breeds with very short muzzles, like Boxers, Chinese pugs, Boston Terriers and English Bulldogs — "the ultimate example of this category...If you have one of these breeds, now is a time for extra caution."
Small measures, like keeping your pet's hair well groomed and trimmed, can help your pet beat the heat. The AAHA recommends for owners to rub a bit of sunblock on the skin around the lips of your pet along with the tips of your pet's ears and nose to prevent from sunburn, peeling, or even skin cancer.
The ASPCA even offers a PetWeather app for iPhones and Android phones which tells owners if the local outside conditions are safe for pets or not. Also, visit the local veterinarian for treatments and preventative measures to take on pests like fleas, ticks and mosquitoes — who can transmit heartworms to dogs and cats.
Just like us humans, the heat is unbearable for our four-legged friends. Failure to provide adequate care for your pet could lead to dehydration, heatstroke or even fatal consequences.

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