Although the summer is winding down and we’ll have cooler days ahead, it’s still a warm one in many parts of the world. To make sure your pet can safely enjoy the outdoors with the military family, we asked Amanda Morgan, a veterinarian technician and Air Force spouse her tips to keep the four-legged friends cool on those scorching hot and humid days.
“I see many several heat related injuries at the veterinarian hospital. While we may see burnt pads from the hot asphalt, the most common illness from the heat is exhaustion and stroke. These conditions are 100 percent preventable but will cause death if not treated in time,” she said.
Signs of heat exhaustion and stroke include heavy panting, profuse salivation, rapid pulse, red gums and tongue, lethargy, lack of coordination, vomiting, diarrhea, and temperature exceeding 104.
Scary stuff, but here’s what you can do to prevent this from happening to your lifetime friend:
1) Never leave pets in a car even with the windows down. A 70 degree day can make the internal temperature of a vehicle climb to 120 degrees in 30 minutes.
2) Animals dehydrate quickly. If you’re outdoors with your pet make sure you pack plenty of fresh or bottled water. Stay away from excessive drinking from lakes, rivers, ponds, and the ocean.
3) Bring pets indoors during summer months. If a pet has to be outside, make sure they have a shaded area to lie down, are not tethered in the sun and have access to plenty of water. Consider filling up a small pool with water so they can lie inside, and look for automatic pet watering systems which you can add to a hose.
4) Don’t exercise pets during peak heat hours, which are 10am-4pm. Pets covered in fur get hot faster than humans. They lack the ability to sweat except for a very small amount through their paws. It’s a good idea to give full coated breeds like huskies and retrievers a summer cut to help keep them cool.
5) Don’t allow pets to be on asphalt. If the ground is hot to the touch it may burn your pet’s paws. The air temperature of 77 degrees yields asphalt temperatures of up to 125 degrees. A good test is to press your hand to the asphalt for seven seconds. If it’s uncomfortable for you, it’s uncomfortable for your pet too.
6) Know your breed. Brachycephalics breeds such as Pugs, Boston terriers, English bulldogs, and Boxers are predisposed to breathing problems. The heat affects them quicker.
7) Elderly pets that can’t move well may have heart or lung diseases and are also at increased risk for heat illnesses. Don’t leave them outside in the heat for prolonged periods.
If you notice signs of heat exhaustion, phone your local emergency veterinarian to prepare them of your arrival and move the pet to an air conditioned area. Take a rectal temperature and if the reading exceeds 104 degrees, begin to cool by spraying with hose or place in tub of cool water.
Never leave the pet unattended in the tub. Do not cool them past 103 degrees and then head to the veterinarian office. They will likely need to run blood work and start IV fluids to stabilize your pet. Hyperthermia can cause kidney, liver, and all system failure, irregular heart rhythm, seizures and death if left untreated.
A temperature-controlled indoor setting is the safest place for the pet during summer’s hottest days. If you don’t have a room with air conditioning, set up plenty of fans and put one up that clips to the side of a pet kennel.
Pets are vulnerable to heat-related injuries as the temperatures rise, but a responsible pet owner takes precautions to ensure their pet is healthy and happy. Prevention, understanding the signs of heat injuries and what to do should you encounter an emergency will go a long way in protecting your four-legged family members.
Theresa Donnelly is an active-duty Navy Lieutenant with 16 years of military service, having done 10 years enlisted with multiple overseas deployments. She is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, an online pet resource for military families living in Hawaii. The blog and Facebook page provide information on moving with pets in the military, boarding information, and pet policies in city, state and federal governments. She partners with local and national animal nonprofits that place special emphasis on military and their companion animals, such as Dogs on Deployment and Pets for Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @tdonnelly76