Long Island’s residents are itching to shed their layers of clothing in preparation of summer. Forget jackets, long sleeves and pants! It’s all about tank-tops, shorts and flip-flops once June rolls around. Our four-legged pals, however, don’t have that luxury. While pets like cats and dogs do literally shed as temperatures rise that can’t take off their entire coat of fur when they need to cool down. Overheating, or heat prostration, can be just as serious a problem for animals as it is for people. LongIsland.com is has a number of tips to help pet owners keep their furry friends healthy, happy, and cool this summer.
1. First, bring your pet to your veterinarian for a spring or early summer checkup. Get your pet tested for heartworm, fleas and ticks.
2. Second, know the warning signs. When overheated animals will display symptoms of excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. Symptoms can also be as extreme and seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit.
3. Never, ever leave an animal alone in a car, even if you’ve left the windows open. Not only is this illegal in several states but Dr. Louise Murray , Director of Medicine at ASPCA Bergh Memorial Hospital, also says, “On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time - even with the windows open – which could lead to a fatal heat stroke.” If you’re bringing your pet along on a summertime road trip, make sure to carry plenty of fresh water to keep them hydrated. Never take your pet to the beach unless you can provide a shaded area and plenty of fresh water.
4. Avoid letting your pet linger on hot asphalt. Being so low to the ground, body heat of an animal can skyrocket much more quickly than a human’s. They also run the risk of burning the pads of their feet.
5. Keep pets indoors on hot days and make sure fresh, clean, cool water is easily accessible. It’s very easy for animals to become dehydrated in summer heat. If your pet is elderly, overweight or suffers from heart or lung disease keep outdoor activities to a strict minimum. Brachycephalic (snub-nosed) animals, such as bulldogs, Pekingese, Boston terriers, and Persian cats, have a difficult time cooling themselves down through panting and should also be kept inside in cool rooms as much as possible. Don’t force exercise on an animal in hot and humid weather. Instead opt to take them for a walk in the morning or evening when the temperature is cooler.
6. Give your dogs a summertime doo. A lightweight haircut helps to prevent overheating. Keep the fur length to about one-inch in length. Shaving the fur off entirely removes any and all protection animals have from the sun, allowing for sunburns. Frequently brushing cats can also help to prevent overheating.
Besides overheating, there are other summertime dangers that pet owners must face.
• Avoid walking your pet in areas where chemicals such as rodenticides, insecticides, and lawn and garden care products have been used. Be aware of coolant leaking from your car. Animals are attracted to coolant’s sweet taste. Ingestion of these chemicals can easily cause death. Immediately call your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect your animal has ingested any poisons.
• Keep collars and up-to-date tags on your pets year round and never let your pet run loose. They could easily be injured, contract a fatal disease such as rabies, be stolen or killed. You may want to consider micro-chipping your pet for identification purposes.
• Be sure to keep windows closed or to place screens in all windows your plan to have open. Animals can easily fall from heights which can lead to serious injury or death. The ASPCA sees a rise in injuries resulting from a fall during the summertime. So much so that they gave it a name, High-Rise Syndrome.
• Leave your pet at home this 4th of July. Fireworks are extremely dangerous and should not be used around animals. Curious pets may experience severe burns or trauma as a result. Unused fireworks can be equally as hazardous as they “contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals,” according to Dr. Steven Hansen, ASPCA Senior Vice President of Animal Health Services.
• Avoid feeding your pet “human food” and keep them away from alcoholic beverage which can cause intoxication, depression and, in extreme cases, comas. Dr. Hansen reasons that “any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products containing the sweetener xylitol.”
By following these fundamental pet health and safety guidelines both you and your pet will get to enjoy the full potential of summer.