Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Cautions of Exposing Your Pet to Excessive Heat

Rain, sleet, snow or heat, when they gotta’ go, they gotta’ go. Walking our dogs in extreme weather conditions is unpleasant for us and our beloved canines. Still, it has to be done if your dog doesn’t do its business quickly or you don’t have an enclosed yard. There are many apartment, high-rise, townhouse and condo dwellers faced with this dilemma all the time.

Dogs and cats are homeotherms, which means they typically maintain a constant body temperature of 101 to 102 degrees. If their body temperature rises above 106 degrees, brain, tissue and organ swelling can occur as well as abnormal blood clotting, which can damage the kidneys, heart, lungs and the brain. This leads to the physical collapse of the animal, a coma, seizures and respiratory arrest.

Dogs and cats do not have the sweating capability that humans do so they release heat by coming into contact with things cooler than themselves like tile floors, cool water and cool air. When dogs pant, the evaporation dissipates heat from within their bodies, but prolonged panting without a cooling element will lead to dehydration.

As we enter into the warmer months, there are precautions to take when we are forced to take our furry friends outside in the heat so they can relieve themselves.

It is best to keep cats inside with a litter box for their convenience. Bring your outdoor cats in for the summer or at least provide them with a cooler shelter and plenty of water for them to drink.

Dogs are a different story all together and there are many things to consider to keep their temperature regulated to avoid heatstroke.

If you think the hot pavement burns your feet, imagine how it can affect your dog! Even though our dogs have thicker pads on their paws than we have on our feet, they can still get 3rd degree burns from prolonged contact with hot terrain.

Here are a few tips to help you ensure your pet is healthy and comfortable through the warmer months of the year. Keep in mind that the most ideal time of day to walk a dog is in the morning or late evening to avoid the hotter, midday temperatures.
  • Walk in the shade as much as possible if walking has to be done in the midday hours.
  • Walk in circles close to home so that you are never too far from the end of the walk.
  • Hydration is the key to avoid a heat stroke for you and your dog. Take a bottle or two of cold water for the both of you.
  • If attending an outdoor event together, make sure you take your dog to the watering areas frequently and try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
  • Avoid taking your dog along with you on your daily runs or long walks.
  • Never leave your pet in a parked car on a warm day.
  • Watch for various signs that your dog has reached his/her limit, such as excessive panting or drooling, tender paws, shaking, sluggishness,  and red, gray or purple tongue and gums.
  • Once back inside, lead your dog to water immediately and encourage him/her to lie down on a cool tile, wood or cement floor to regulate their body temperature.
  • Avoid play time or over-exertion until your dog has recovered from the heat.

Canines have a thick undercoat of fur as well as an outer layer. In warmer months, they shed their undercoat, which they use for insulating because it isn’t needed. The outer coat remains as a thermal regulator to slow down the process of heat absorption.

Many owners have their dog’s fur shaved or cut extra short for hot weather, which is not advisable. Animals need their fur to protect them from sunburn and insect bites and to avoid over-heating.

Although you may continue to run or jog in the heat for exercise, do not take your dog with you. The activity has their metabolism generate internal heat, which blocks their ability to discharge external heat, leading to excessive panting and dehydration.

There are specific dog breeds that are intolerant of excessive heat. Breeds with “pushed in” snouts are at the top of the list, as well as those with cold-weather coats.

Because of its bulk and breathing system, the French Bull Dog cannot regulate its temperature efficiently. Once overheated, a heatstroke can occur, causing death. Short walks are a must in warm weather.

All other Bulldog breeds, Pugs, Boxers, Boston terriers, as well as Himalayan and Persian cats cannot efficiently pant to cool themselves when overheated.

Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Akitas and chow chows are cold weather breeds that are also intolerant of excessive temperatures.

The bulk of obese or overweight dogs interferes with thermoregulation, which means they cannot radiate heat away from their body sufficiently enough to cool down.

So when you’re outside with your pet in hot weather and your pet begins to pant heavily, take it into cooler temperatures, hose it down in the back yard or run tepid water all over its body, especially the head, neck, chest and groin, to start the cooling process. You can also wrap it in cool, wet towels, but you’ll need to replace them when they warm up from the heat the animal is releasing.

– Kassira McKee

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