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Hot Weather Pet Care

Furry friends count on their owners to keep them cool and healthy. Dogs, cats and horses all require special attention to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Dogs and the heat

dog looking through a car window in hot weatherMost dogs love a car ride. It's when they're left behind that danger looms.

No matter how briefly, never leave a dog inside an unattended vehicle. The inside of a car can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit quickly, even when it's parked in the shade with a window cracked. Canines don't perspire like humans. Instead, they dissipate body heat through panting and the pads of their feet. Because the temperature rises faster than dogs can cool off, brain and organ damage can occur in as little as 15 minutes.

Heat stress, exhaustion and stroke symptoms include heavy panting, glazed eyes, rapid heartbeat and a deep red or purple tongue. Also watch for lethargy, fever, dizziness, clumsiness, profuse salivation, vomiting and unconsciousness.

When these symptoms occur, gently move the dog to a shady or air conditioned space. Apply cold towels, especially to the head and neck. Give the dog cold water to drink or ice cubes to lick. See a veterinarian immediately.

Spot a pet alone in a vehicle on a hot day? Enlist nearby businesses to help locate the owner and wait for the owner to return. If the clock keeps ticking, call law enforcement for assistance in safely removing the dog from the vehicle.

Heat-related illness also occurs when a dog is left outside in the blazing heat. Never chain a dog outdoors for long periods of time. If a dog must be outside, use an appropriate size kennel and provide abundant shelter, shade and drinking water.

Cats and the heat

While heat-related illnesses are more common in dogs, extreme heat also affects cats in the same way. Treatments are similar, and heat distressed cats are more accepting of cool, wet towels. Unlike canines, however, overheated felines may not drink enough water. Try an ice cube in the water dish to pique kitty's curiosity and lead it to drink more.

Pets get sunburned, too, particularly on the nose and ears. Too much sun exposure can cause skin cancer. Dogs and cats with light-colored noses or ear fur are most vulnerable. Ask a veterinarian for a pet-friendly sunscreen that won't harm the animal if it licks the treated area.

Horses and the heat

Horse being sprayed with water in the summerHorses are not immune to the heat and humidity. Heat distress may occur during activity, standing in a hot barn or traveling in a poorly ventilated trailer.

Symptoms include elevated respiratory rate, heart rate and temperature. Other signs include increased, or worse, a lack of sweating. Equines also can lose interest in food, become lethargic or stumble. Severe heat stroke causes collapse, seizures or even death.

When symptoms are present, stop all activity, cool the horse's body and provide plenty of drinking water. Seek veterinary care immediately.

To prevent heat-related illnesses, schedule strenuous work in the cooler early or late hours of the day. Shelters or shade trees should be nearby. In the barn, traditional and misting fans assure air movement. Cool sponge baths are refreshing.

Horses with heavy coats benefit from a summer haircut. Don't clip too close to the skin, though, otherwise sunburn is a risk. Use shampoos with sunscreen, and apply sunscreen directly to pink noses.
With forethought and care, animals can safely enjoy the great outdoors, too.

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