Protect Your Pets in Extreme Heat

As you take precautions to protect yourself in this heat wave and upcoming hot summer months, don't forget to protect our pets. Heat-related illness impacts animals too.
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Triple-digit temperatures are spreading across the U.S. like a heavy, hot blanket, and it's not over yet! As you take precautions to protect yourself in this heat wave and upcoming hot summer months, don't forget to protect our pets. Heat-related illness impacts animals too.

In my book, Extreme Weather, I interviewed veterinarians Dr. Charlotte Krugler and Dr. Adam Eichelberger from Clemson University in South Carolina. They offer terrific tips and answer questions on how to protect your pets from extreme heat. Here is an excerpt:

How do pets react in hot and humid conditions?

Dogs and cats often cool themselves by panting and also by "sweating" from their foot pads.

How do you know if it is "too hot" for your pet?

A pet owner should note how their pet normally breathes when lying quietly compared to light activity and vigorous exercise. Then they'll be more likely to notice abnormal clinical signs when a pet is too hot -- such as heavy panting when not exercising, open-mouth breathing, inactivity, lack of appetite, mental dullness, and diarrhea.

When temperatures get hot, pets should not be encouraged to undergo vigorous activity for prolonged periods. Vigorous activity on a hot day increases the chances of a pet overheating, so owners should be especially vigilant during these times. This means:

- Never leave a pet unattended in a car on a warm or hot day.
- Keep fresh water available -- cool when possible.
- Provide protection from direct sunlight; allow access to shade and shelter.
- Ensure that pets are not confined in areas without air flow on hot and humid days.

What should you do if you suspect your pet is overheated?

If pet overheating is suspected, the pet should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. In the interim, cool water (not warm, not cold) can be applied directly, or via dampened towels, to the pet's foot pads, to areas under armpits, inside back legs, and underside of the belly to help lower the pet's body temperature.

Can animals get sunburn?

Yes, animals can get sunburned (including dogs, cats, horses, pigs), so any bright day with direct exposure can result in a sunburn. Some animals seem to be more susceptible. Sunburned areas on white cats (usually ear tips) and pink-skinned areas on horses can progress to skin cancers.
Certain diets can induce photosensitivity, which will lead to sunburned skin in some animals.

Is heat tougher on certain breeds than others?

It seems that dog breeds with very thick, dense coats can have a tougher time in the heat. Some "arctic" breeds may be more suited to cooler climates. Also, black dogs are believed to absorb more heat into their bodies and seem to have problems on hot days, especially when exposed to direct sunlight. Very thick-coated dog breeds may benefit from being shaved down by an experienced pet groomer once or twice during the hot season.

What are common mistakes pet owners make in the warm-weather months?

The most serious mistake is to leave a pet in a closed automobile on a hot day. Leaving the windows open will not prevent the temperature of the car, and then of the pet, from rising.
Another common mistake is overexercising a dog on a hot day and not allowing the pet to cool down properly after a period of exercise. When dogs accompany owners on activities such as jogging, hiking, beach trips, etc., water should be provided at regular intervals and rest periods provided.

This exerpt is from the "Extreme Heat" chapter of my book, Extreme Weather. Here's more about the book:

Flash floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, mudslides, thunderstorms, and wildfires - these devastating events are happening around the world at an alarming rate. As a Meteorologist on CNN and HLN, Bonnie Schneider reports on these natural disasters, explaining when they're likely to strike, and telling viewers how to respond when they do. In "Extreme Weather," Schneider distills that information into a guide for readers. She interviews experts from a wide variety of agencies -- including FEMA and NOAA -- to provide a comprehensive understanding of the science behind weather patterns and the latest thinking on how to act in dangerous conditions. Ranging from topics that cover every season and every climate, Schneider introduces the reader to the best course of action during weather emergencies, including:

*how to handle extreme weather scenarios in your car, outside, on a boat or at home

*how to prepare for potential dangers, such as deadly lightning, when planning a camping trip, vacation or sports outing

*what you need to have at home to protect against floods, earthquakes, or severe storms

*how to protect your home from rapidly spreading wildfire

*how to create a family evacuation plan for different emergencies

*making sure your beloved pet is taken care of in time of disaster

Drawing on actual survivor stories, "Extreme Weather" reminds readers that disaster can strike at any time, changing your life forever.

For more by Bonnie Schneider, click here.

For more on pet health, click here.

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