Keep an eye on your pets in this heat

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

Here we are, still in the dog days of summer. If you’re not sweating out heat and humidity today, you’re likely to again before we slide into the cooler days of fall.

But what about our furry friends, our dogs and cats? Do they sweat the misery of hot, humid weather?

Actually, dogs and cats do sweat to cool off. And their fur acts as insulation.

But pets rely on us, “their people,” to behave like the “alpha animals” in their lives and protect them from the worst of summer.

“The American Red Cross focuses on the welfare of human beings, but we know how important pets are to people,” said Dr. Eve Schaming,  veterinarian at Sagamore Hills Animal Hospital in Summit County.  “That’s why we want to help folks prevent heat-related issues with their animals.”

Provide plenty of fresh water. To avoid pet heat exhaustion, make sure your pets have plenty of cool, fresh water and access to shade all day long.

Never leave your pet in the car. And no, cracking the window open or parking in the shade doesn’t count! The inside of a vehicle can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, which puts an animal in real danger.

And watch the humidity. Just like humans, our pets sweat or pant to cool off, but high humidity slows that process down.

The Red Cross offers these steps to treat heat stroke in dogs:

  • Get your animal out of direct heat.
  • Check for signs of shock, which include: collapse, body temperature of more than 104, bloody diarrhea or vomit, stupor, seizures or coma, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, salivation.
  • Take your dog’s temperature.
  • Spray your dog with cool water and then retake its temperature.
  • Put water-soaked towels on the dog’s head, neck, feet, chest and abdomen; turn on a fan an point it in the dog’s direction; rub isopropyl alcohol (70%) on the foot pads, but don’t use large quantities.
  • Take your dog to the nearest veterinarian. The effects of heat stroke may not show up right away.

Pay special attention to older animals and to dogs with shorter noses (like pugs, boxers and bulldogs). They’re at greater risk for heat stroke.

Protect your pet’s paws from hot surfaces. Walk your pet in the grass or the shade whenever possible. If the pavement is too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws! If it needs to go outside on a hard surface to “do its business,” try wetting the surface with a hose or water bottle to help cool it off.

Don’t overdo outdoor exercise. Often, dogs don’t know when they need a break, so it’s up to us, “their people,” to stop for regular shaded breaks and offer water. Try to plan your walks, hikes or runs during the cooler times of day. (Better for you too!)

Whether it’s hot or not, check with your vet to see if your pets should be taking heartworm prevention medication. Heartworm disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, can be fatal to both dogs and cats.

The Humane Society of the United States says fleas and ticks are another summer threat. Only use flea and tick treatments recommended by your vet; some over-the-counter product can be toxic, even when used according to directions.

You can have first aid advice for everyday pet emergencies at your fingertips by downloading the Red Cross Pet First Aid App from smartphone app stores by searching for the American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.

Pet owners can also access the Red Cross Cat and Dog First Aid online course on a desktop or tablet at redcross.org/catdogfirstaid. The 35-minute course covers:

  • How to determine a pet’s normal vital signs so you can spot something that’s out of the ordinary;
  • Step-by-step instructions for what to do if a pet is choking, needs CPR, has a wound or is having a seizure; and
  • Information on preventative care, health and tips for a pet’s well-being.

My neighbor’s dog, Nap, thanks you. And so does my son’s cat, Spike.

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