Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer pet protection from heat and fireworks

(ARA) - With summer upon us, warmer weather beckons everyone outdoors to enjoy the sunshine. When family and friends gather for backyard barbecues and outings in the park, it is natural to want to include the pets. It is wise, though, to consider the health and safety of pets before taking them out into the heat for prolonged periods.

Pets cannot tolerate heat the same way as people. One big reason is that dogs don't sweat, thereby lacking a natural way to cool down. To help ensure your pets don't suffer from the heat, veterinarian Tracy Chase-Thompson, department chair of the veterinary technology program at Brown Mackie College in Michigan City, Ind., offers advice. "Heat exhaustion is one of the big things that can occur," she says. "It happens more with dogs than cats, but it can occur with both."

Heat exhaustion is a dangerous condition in animals that occurs due to lack of protection from hot weather and humidity. "It doesn't take much time for heat exhaustion to develop," says Chase-Thompson. "A dog can overheat in a hot vehicle in just 10 minutes." Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy panting, drooling and labored breathing. "Gum color is another indicator. If gums appear red instead of pink, that's a sign of an animal in distress."

If it happens, Chase-Thompson recommends moving the animal to a cool spot immediately. "Give the dog water to drink, and wipe a cool washcloth over the fur. Don't just dump water over the animal. It helps to place the paws in cool water as well," she says. She does not recommend an ice bath. "If an animal cools too quickly, it can go into shock."

Normal body temperature for a dog is between 101 F and 102 F. "A temperature higher than 105 F signals heat exhaustion," says Chase-Thompson. In this case, the dog would require veterinarian care with IV fluids for hydration, and close monitoring of body temperature.

Pet owners can take a number of precautions to prevent heat stress and exhaustion in pets. If your dog will spend any amount of time outside, Chase-Thompson advises providing a shelter so that the dog can access shade at all times, and walking your dog before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. when sunlight and humidity are less powerful. "It is safer to leave your pet at home on hot or humid days rather than in the car, even with the windows cracked. If you must take your pet, park in the shade, open the window, and don't leave for more than 10 minutes," she adds.

Another concern among pet owners is how to protect a pet that is afraid of the noise from fireworks and thunderstorms. "Some pets have a fear of noise at a young age. Others are fine when they're young, yet become bothered by loud sounds as they grow older," says Chase-Thompson. "It's impossible to make the noise go away, but there are ways to minimize or disguise the noise.

"If you leave the dog alone, it could help to leave music playing. Turn on the radio or TV, or even a loud fan or air conditioner," she advises. "If the animal's reaction is really bad, I recommend staying with your pet to provide reassurance. There are anti-anxiety medications that a veterinarian can prescribe." Chase-Thompson advises discussing with your veterinarian whether your pet is a good candidate. "Medications can help, but they don't always work. It is important to lessen your pet's fear with other types of comfort," she says.

Try to give your pet a safe place where they won't hurt themselves. And forget about reprimanding behavior that results from fear of loud noises. "They can't simply change," Chase-Thompson says. "Some pets like an item of the owner's for comfort, like a T-shirt or old shoe." A little knowledge can go a long way in protecting your pet from the pitfalls that summer brings.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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