Summer living can be easy for you and your pet if you remember the basics.
Temperatures and humidity have been high—situations that clinicians at North Carolina State University’s Veterinary Health Complex remind us can be dangerous to your companion animal.
“If you are uncomfortable, it’s safe to say that your pet is as well,” says Dr. Steve Marks, clinical associate professor of critical care and internal medicine in the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. “Pets can suffer from heat stroke, dehydration, and even sunburn. While people sweat through numerous pores to lower body temperature, your pet has limited sweat glands—found mostly on the nose and the pads of their feet. They can become dangerously overheated.”
While all dogs and cats are at risk, older or very young pets, overweight pets, pets with heavy coats, short-nosed dogs and dogs and cats with preexisting disease may need extra care. Limit exercise on hot and humid days to early morning and evening, remember asphalt becomes very hot, keep the water bowl refreshed, and ensure that cooling shade is always nearby. Of course, never leave a pet in a parked car.
“Even with the windows rolled down,” says Dr. Marks, “it only takes a few minutes for a dangerous level of heat to build within the interior of a car. Dehydration, heat stroke, and even brain damage to the dog or cat can occur.
“If your pet is panting excessively or has difficulty breathing, has an increased heart and respiratory rate, drools, appears weak or in a stupor, place the pet in the shade or air conditioning immediately and apply cool—not cold—water to reduce the animal’s core body temperature. Get help from your veterinarian as soon as possible.”
Summer is high season for fleas and ticks of all kinds and the appropriate application of veterinarian-recommended tick medication can help keep your pet free from these pests. This summer in particular cat owners are advised to protect their feline companions from tick-transmitted cytauxzoonosis, a malaria-like infectious disease that left untreated has a mortality rate close to 100%.
Summer vacationing with a pet requires preparation and appropriate arrangements for travel, lodging, food, and availability of plenty of water as well as attentive owner observation to protect the pet in new environments.
A recommended vacation kennel is an option for your pet while you are away from home. Be sure all vaccinations are up-to-date before boarding the pet. “Just like in people, pet vaccines take a little time to provide protection so it’s not a good idea to stop by the veterinarian’s office for a shot before dropping your pet off at the kennel,” says Dr. Marks. .
Other summer tips:
- A check-up visit with the veterinarian is a good way to begin a healthy and safe summer and to ensure necessary vaccinations are kept up-to-date.
- Beware of toxic agents such as plant food, insecticides, fertilizer, coolants, citronella candles, oil products, and insect coils that may be around the home and yard;
- A compost bin or garbage can is a common yard element that may result in an emergency visit to the veterinarian with your pet having uncontrolled, non-stop shaking, symptoms of potentially lethal tremorgenic mycotoxin intoxication from ingesting fungus found on decomposing objects;
- The heat, loud noise, and confusion of crowded summer events can stress pets and is not an enjoyable experience for them;
- Make sure your pet is always wearing a collar or identification such as a microchip;
- Maintain recommended heartworm medication since the potentially deadly heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes.
As a resource for pet owners, the Veterinary Health Complex at NC State provides a Small Animal Emergency Service weekdays from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., weekends from 5 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Monday, and 24 hours a day on legal holidays.
Call 919.513.6911 if you have a small animal emergency. For large animal emergencies, call 919.513.6630.
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