Hot Dogs and Cool Cats
Heat Stress in Pets: It’s a Killer
Over the holiday period we are likely to be out and about more with our pets. However, playing in the sunshine can also be a cause of heat stress. You need to be careful that you don’t put your pets at risk over the next few months. Helping your pet to keep its cool this summer is vital and there are some ‘tricks of the trade’ that will help you to do just that.
The Hair of the Dog
It’s easy for us to shed unwanted clothes in summer but not so easy for long-haired dogs and cats to shed their coats. Having your pet clipped now is a good idea and there are many grooming parlours around that will do the job for you. Most pets are shedding their coats at this time of year and daily grooming to remove unwanted hair will make your pet more comfortable and will help it to shed excess heat. Grooming aids, such as slicker brushes and Kong Zoom Grooms, that are designed to strip loose hair from your pet’s coat, are very useful.
A Cool Abode
It is essential that your pets have adequate shade to rest in at this time of year. It’s the afternoon sun that’s the killer and therefore you should ensure that a shady spot is provided on the eastern side of your house so that the house itself provides shade. Kennels on the western side are nothing but hot boxes. The coolest area in your home is underneath the house or verandah – just the spot for a pet’s afternoon snooze. This is the spot where your pet’s water bowls (more than one) should be situated so that they remain cool.
To help your pet keep its cool while you are at work, provide some frozen treats for it. It’s a good idea to freeze a cup or two of water and place them in your dog’s water bowl in the morning to keep the water cool. Fill a Kong toy with a good brand of canned dog food or with fresh mince then freeze it to provide your dog with a cool treat! Also, in a plastic lunch box, margarine container or similar, make a nutritious soup by placing a pet multivitamin mixture into some Vegemite broth. Then throw in some chunks of fresh meat, some liver treats and a few veggies and freeze the whole lot. When you go to work, remove the frozen delight from its container and place it into your pet’s bowl. It will provide your pet with a stimulating and nutritious boredom blaster during the day that will also keep your hot dog cool.
A clamshell sandpit in a shady spot is a great summer treat for a hot dog. Fill one half of the sandpit with sand and wet the sand in the morning. This will give Poochie a cool bed to snooze on. Fill the other half with water and Poochie can drink it, sit or paddle in it or play in it, just like a kid at the beach. Now suspend a hose above the sand pit and connect it to a clockwork hose timer on the tap. Set it to turn on during sprinkler times and the oscillating hose will cool your pooch and provide a watery wonder world.
Apart from keeping your pets cool at home, be very careful about their care when they are out and about with you because mistakes are too easy to make. The saddest mistake of all is when a dog dies in a hot car. The rules are simple. At this time of year, your dog should not travel with you if you are going to stop anywhere other than at your final destination. Many say, “but I’m only going into the shop for a litre of milk – I’ll be just a minute”. The ‘just a minute’ extends very quickly if the shop is busy or if you happen to meet a talkative friend. The highest temperatures are reached in cars of dark colour and with large glass areas. Hatchback cars are the worst, with temperatures quickly exceeding 70 degrees centigrade. This is lethal for any living being, including children. Short nosed breeds of dogs, such as Bulldogs, Pugs and the Pekingese, are very susceptible to heat stress. Obese dogs and cats are at risk too, especially small, fat dogs. Dogs or cats with poor circulation and dogs with any respiratory disease are also susceptible.
I cringe when I see people cycling or jogging with their dogs struggling behind. A dog is so faithful that it will try to keep up when it should stop and rest. The owner knows when he or she is getting too hot. However, the dog is so faithful it will ignore the messages from its body that say ‘stop’. The dog’s tongue is dangling in a futile attempt to cool its body and it is obviously struggling to keep up. Dogs like this often collapse from circulatory failure. Naturally, jog or walk in the cooler times of day, either early morning or late evening. Stop regularly to give your dog a rest and a drink, or even better a cooling swim.
Heat stroke causes incredible damage. Affected animals will first show excitation, followed by loss of balance and seizures, as the blood vessels in the brain engorge. A coma will follow. Heart failure is common and many other changes in body organs occur. The animal is at grave risk. Emergency first aid is vital and you will need to get to a vet quickly. While you are contacting your vet, cool the animal by placing it in a room temperature (not iced) water bath or by hosing it. Place the wet animal in front of the fan and apply ice packs to its head. Your veterinarian will need to give medication to control any seizures and to prevent further damage being caused to the animal’s brain. He or she may give it a water enema to reduce its body temperature. It is likely that your pet will be placed onto an intravenous drip. Your vet may also anaesthetise your pet to prevent seizures. Heat stress is a major concern over summer but a little common sense is all that is required to help your pets keep their cool. Please be careful.