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Dogs days of summer

Keeping your pet safe in the summer heat
Jun 21, 2018
Photo by: Gretchen Teske Dogs like Bella prefer to stay inside during the summer months. The heat can effect their paws so finding fun alternatives inside the house is a must.

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News


The heat wave southern Iowa is experiencing is affecting not only humans, but pets too. According to animal experts in Henry and Washington counties, the best way to keep animals safe is to stay informed and aware of the outdoor temps and conditions.

Dr. Travis Van De Berg from the Northeast Animal Hospital in Mt. Pleasant says the best way to keep pets safe is by keeping them indoors.

“Basically a lot of your house dogs should go outside to go to the bathroom and come back in,” he said.

When temperatures reach extreme highs, the heat can wreak havoc on a dog’s body. Providing them with a cool environment and ample drinking water is essential for their health.

Dr. Van De Berg says if taking the pet outside is a must, to check the pavement first. He suggests pressing the back of the hand to the pavement to check the temp. If leaving the hand on the ground is uncomfortable for the human, it’s uncomfortable for the pet, too.

“The biggest thing is watching their pads for burning,” he says. “If they’re running alongside a bike, that can really increase the body temperature in a dog.” He says that sometimes people walk their dogs with bikes because it’s faster and cooler for the rider, but the extra work can exhaust and even hurt the animal.

Amber Talbot, director of PAWS and More Animal Shelter in Washington, says exercise for the canine can be done indoors or out. “Depending on your space inside you can always play tug of war or throw a ball,” she says.

She also recommends setting up an indoor scavenger hunt for the animal. By putting treats in boxes and hiding them around the house, the dog has to use their senses to find the object and exercises not only their body but brain as well.

If the animal has already been exposed to the elements and is showing signs of pain, Van De Berg suggests putting beeswax on the sore to protect it. Although toxic if ingested, silvadene cream, a popular burn ointment, can be used as well. However the doc recommends putting a sock over the paw to prevent them from licking it off.

“Any kind of barrier that you can create is going to be helpful, but with these extreme temperatures, a lot of those topical ointments are going to melt off,” says Talbot. She advocates for avoiding hazardous situations altogether by staying away from black asphalt and staying to concrete, grass or gravel when walking a pet during the hot months.

To cool pets off, both experts agree that swimming is a great option that allows them much-needed exercise as well. If the animal is going to be in a swimming pool meant for humans, Dr. Van De Berg says to check the pet’s skin for irritation from the chlorine. He says that most commonly people purchase kiddie pools for their pets and says this is a good idea because it allows for easy access and a way for the animal to cool off.

Humidity can also affect pets because they do not sweat like a human would. Instead, they sweat through the pads of their feet. Providing a cool area, indoors or outdoors, is essential to avoid heat exhaustion.

Dr. Van De Berg says the simplest way to notice heat exhaustion is if the animal collapses, has excessive drooling or eye twitching. If this occurs, he says to get the animal to a cool place and begin cooling them down slowly.

“You don’t want to douse them with water because that of course is going to insulate them,” he says. The more water on the dog, the more the body will trap the heat in. Instead he recommends getting them to a cool environment, laying them on a cool towel or placing them in a bathtub with shallow water where their belly can get wet.

Talbot agrees and says putting ice on the major arteries, armpits, neck and feet, can also help. Of course, both agree that a vet should be contacted immediately if symptoms worsen.

When the heat starts to rise, pet owners flock to the groomers for a summer cut or shave. Talbot says getting an animal shaved is only recommended for breeds in which regular haircuts are required. “Trimming the hair and making the length shorter is absolutely appropriate, but you would never want to shave that thick barrier because they need it for the insulation factor,” she says.

Dogs such as Huskies, Australian shepherds and Golden Retrievers all have double coats. The double coat consists of two layers of hair on the dog. The undercoat is generally thin and shorter, working to keep the dog hot or cool, depending on the weather. The top coat is thicker and longer and works to protect the animal from dirt and moisture. If this gets cut, the canine has no way of protecting itself from the elements.

Shaving a dog can cause a skin issue, particularly in white dogs. Sunburn can occur in a pet whose skin is exposed to the elements and Dr. Van De Berg says white dogs are more susceptible because their skin is pink and easier to burn. To prevent burning, he suggests finding a sunscreen specifically designed for dogs. However, if the pet does experience a burn, aloe vera gel can be applied to cool the skin because it is nontoxic.

While the sun can be toxic to animals, so can certain foods. Dr. Van De Berg says to avoid giving pets grapes or onions from the table during a summer barbecue because they can be poisonous. However Talbot says if the animal does get ahold of a small amount, not to worry. Only if the food is consumed in excess should one worry.

Where there is food, there are bugs. In the event of an insect sting, the doctor recommends Benadryl. He says the general rule of thumb is one milligram per pound two or three times a day until swelling goes down. “That’s a really easy over-the-counter method you could get ahold of,” Talbot agrees.

Warm weather can be dangerous for all animals, not just dogs, but also cats. Talbot reccomends keeping the cat indoors to protect it not only from the sun but also parasites and bugs that appear in the summer. Dr. Van De Berg agrees and although he’s never seen an overheated cat, he knows there is always a possibility.

Talbot says that bunnies also need to be taken care of in extreme temperatures. If they are generally kept outside, she recommends bringing them in because they can overheat quickly. They can be placed in small play pens or even a bathroom or kitchen that can be blocked off. They need room to exercise and can be easily litter box trained.

Two kinds of animals that do not face many heat-related issues are reptiles and birds. Both are used to tropical environments and enjoy the heat. However, the doctor warns against keeping them in direct sunlight because they can overheat. If the cage is in direct sunlight, he says to keep a cloth over one side so the animal has a shaded area to retreat to. Birds also enjoy light breezes from a small hand fan or misting from a spray bottle.

When school lets out and summer takes over, most kids are told to play outside and enjoy the freedom. However, special consideration should be taken for pets. Talbot encourages owners to keep up regular summer preventives for fleas, ticks and other parasites because most thrive in hot weather. As a special treat for your pet, the doctor suggests feeding them frozen vegetables. It will give them the nutrients their bodies need and also keep them cool. Keeping pets safe is the first step to keeping them healthy and happy.

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