DR. DONNA SPECTOR: KEEPING COOL DURING THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER

With the dog days of summer upon us, pet owners need to know how to keep their pets cool during a heat wave and how to spot trouble. Dehydration and heatstroke are very common during the heat of summer. Responsible pet owners know not to keep their dog or cat in a hot car; however, just being outdoors in the heat can pose a life-threatening issue for many pets.

Be particularly careful if you have a brachycephalic or “pug-faced” pet—they are unable to cool themselves as readily and are at major risk for overheating. Very young pets, old pets, pets with heart or lung conditions are all at increased risk of overheating—even on warm days.

Tips for keeping your pet cool and safe

• Keeping your pet hydrated every day during the summer is critical. Consider adding canned food to your pet’s daily routine as a way to increase his water intake. Also, get creative with ways to give your pet additional water—try ice cubes as treats or continuously flowing water fountains to stimulate his interest in drinking.

• Always keep a water bowl and bottle of water with you whenever you are out with your pet. There are easy-to-use collapsible bowls that can even clip on your leash. Offer drinks frequently!

• Avoid being outdoors in the extreme heat—pets don’t realize how dangerous it is and will often overdo it on very hot days. It is best to avoid overheating instead of trying to cool down a hot pet.

• Do not push your pet to chase the ball or engage them in any other sort of strenuous exercise on hot days. Let them set their own pace.

• Keep your pet off the pavement. Pavement becomes very hot on sunny days and is easily able to burn and blister your pets paw pads.

• Remember that pets don’t sweat as a means to cool off—they can only pant and lay on cool surfaces. If you see your pet starting to pant excessively or if they are seeking the cement—get them inside to an air-conditioned room, or if that is not possible, at least into the shade right away.

• You can place a cool, wet towel over your pet or place him in a bath of lukewarm to cool water to cool him down. NEVER use ice or very cold water to try to cool a hot pet. If you have a garden hose handy, you can run cool water over him.

Early signs of an overheated pet include noisy or labored breathing, excessive panting, and bright red mucus membranes. If you are concerned your pet is overheated, check their rectal temperature. The normal canine body temperature is 100 to 102.5. If the temperature registers over 105 degrees or if your pet starts to exhibit weakness, disorientation, altered behavior or collapse—get to your veterinarian immediately! Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency!

Stay cool and enjoy the summer!

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