And During the Dog Days of Summer
During this 4th of July holiday season with the approaching Dog Days of Summer, pet owners must take special care to safeguard the health and welfare of their dogs and cats. The hot, humid, and hazy days typical for July, August, and September bring with them unique conditions and situations that require the extra attention from pet owners. Dogs and cats can suffer from the same heat-related problems that humans do, including over-heating, dehydration, and even sunburn.
The Chicago Veterinary Medical Association offers simple precautions that pet owners and families to protect their companion animals from the elements all summer long.
- The Fourth of July is especially stressful for family pets. Even the best-trained dog can suffer from panic due to fireworks. If you are aware of your pet’s anxiety, contact your veterinarian prior to July 4 to get advice for helping your pet. Prepare a cool, dark space for your anxious pet accompanied by calming noises from a radio or CD player to offset the erratic noise from fireworks.
- Dogs often instinctively chase children on bicycles or skateboards, or who are running. Because the greatest number of bites by dogs to children occurs during the summer months, dog owners should ensure that their pet is on a strong leash.
- Never leave your pet alone in a vehicle, as overheating can quickly lead to death. Dogs should not be left in cars if the ambient temperature exceeds 78 degrees Fahrenheit, even if the windows are left open. The temperature in a car can go from 78 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit in 15 minutes even with windows open.
- Never leave your dog standing on hot asphalt for long periods of time as the body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads may burn.
- Always bring plenty of cold water, along with a portable bowl when out with your pet to ensure proper hydration. Water bowls must be filled more than once a day. Because water evaporates in high heat, animal water bowls, whether inside or outside, must be refilled often.
- Do not force your pet to exercise after a meal in hot, humid weather. Try to exercise in the early morning or later in the evening when the temperatures are cooler, and keep long walks to a minimum. It is up to you to pay careful attention, since your pet does not always know to say when. The minute your dog goes from walking in front of you to lagging behind you is usually a sign that he or she has become too exerted or overheated.
- Provide plenty of shade as well as a well-constructed doghouse for a pet that spends time outside. Bring your animal inside during the hottest part of the day and supply plenty of cool water. It is best that cats remain indoors on extremely hot days.
- Offer a cool or air conditioned room for your pet. Old and overweight animals require extra attention in hot weather. Short nosed, large heavy coated breeds and dogs with heart and/or respiratory problems are at greater risk for heat stroke.
- Maintain a well-groomed pet to prevent summer skin irritations. Cats should be brushed more often in the summer to help thin-out any excess fur. Watch out for any changes in skin color, since pets are not immune from skin cancer.
- Do not take your pet to the beach unless shade and plenty of fresh drinking water are readily available. If swimming in salt water, thoroughly rinse your pet to prevent skin irritation.
With the onslaught of these Dog Days of Summer, be prepared now with a plan in advance of an emergency and know the location of the nearest veterinarian and emergency veterinary medical services. Store the information for your doctor or the emergency clinic in your cell phone and on the refrigerator. If you suspect the slightest problem or discomfort in your pet, call a veterinarian and make an appointment for an exam.
For more information about the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, please visit www.chicagovma.org
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