Summer is here, and everyone seems to be enjoying the sunshine and rising temperatures. But, summer can mean danger for our furry friends. Here are some of the hazards you should be aware of.
Stroke of (un)luck
The greatest threat the rising mercury poses to your pet is heatstroke, which occurs in dogs and cats when they cannot adequately compensate for hot or humid conditions. Pets can cool themselves only by panting, which is not enough to handle the extreme heat. When a pet overheats, it can be deadly.
The normal rectal temperature of a healthy dog or cat is 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature of a pet experiencing heatstroke can be higher than 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Be aware that heatstroke differs from a fever, which is an increased body temperature due to illness. When your pet’s body temperature reaches 109 degrees Fahrenheit, cell membrane stability and cellular enzyme activity begin to change, leading to widespread inflammation, blood clotting disorders, and failure of multiple organ systems.
Signs of heatstroke vary depending on disease severity, but can include:
- Extreme panting
- Increased salivation
- Discolored or dark red gums
- Bloody diarrhea
Numerous situations lead to heatstroke in pets, with confinement in a hot vehicle the most common cause. Never leave your dog in the car in the warmer months. Cracking the car windows open a little barely affects the inside temperature, which can rise to deadly levels on even a moderately warm day.
Heatstroke can also occur when your pet isn’t fully acclimated to warm weather, most likely when you head outdoors for some exercise and he’s a little out of shape from the winter. Add in hot weather that he’s not used to, and it’s a perfect heatstroke recipe, so gradually increase the time outside and the amount of activity.
Your pet also needs protection from the heat when he is at home in your own backyard, and you must ensure that he has access to plenty of fresh water and shade at all times. Pay close attention to dogs who are obese or geriatric, and to brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs, English bulldogs, and Persian cats, because these pets have more difficulty regulating their body temperatures than most breeds.
Too hot for your pet to handle
Hot sidewalks and roads pose a risk to your pet’s paws, especially at the beginning of the warm season. Pets’ usually thickened paw pads may have softened up and become more delicate during the winter. The hot pavement will burn the softer tissue and result in painful blisters on your pet’s pads. Your dog’s paw pads will toughen up, but, in the early summer, be aware of hot surfaces and walk only in shady spots.
Water and pets
Nothing beats the heat like a dip in the pool or lake, but never let your dog swim unattended, even if he’s an expert swimmer. Ensure he can locate the pool stairs so he can always get out safely—even the best swimmers get tired and drown if they can’t get out of the water. “Dry drowning,” which occurs in children after a near-drowning episode, can also happen in pets. You think your beloved swimmer is out of the woods after struggling in the water, but he may still succumb to secondary problems, such as pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs), hours, or even days, after the event.
Opening up the house windows to let in the fresh air is one of life’s little pleasures, and your cats agree. Before you open up, however, ensure that the screens are securely fastened. Cats and small dogs who are sunbathing in the window may inadvertently lean on the screen and fall out if it’s not secure. This not only poses a risk of injury, but also can lead to a lost pet.
Parasite prevention for pets
Parasites also love the warmer weather, so protect your pet against fleas and ticks, and especially mosquitoes, which can transmit deadly heartworm disease. If your pet isn’t on regular flea, tick, and heartworm preventives, call our office.
We are happy summer is here, and we want you and your pets to enjoy it safely. Contact Golden Paws Animal Hospital immediately if you think your furry friend is suffering from the heat. Also, schedule an appointment to ensure your pet is up-to-date with her vaccinations and parasite preventives before you head out into the great wide open spaces this summer.