Ask the vet
Do you have a pet question? Email Life@CoxInc.com and the veterinarian will answer you in this column.
Now that it appears like the hot weather is here to stay, it seems a very appropriate time to discuss how this heat can affect pets.
Not only does the heat have an impact, but humidity and poor air quality play an important role as well by affecting our pets’ ability to evaporate moisture from their tongues, which is how they cool down. They don’t sweat like humans do. So when you combine heat, high humidity and air pollution, it becomes very difficult for pets to maintain a normal body temperature and can create heat-related illnesses, like heat stroke.
Signs of heat stroke include excessive panting, restlessness, vomiting, diarrhea (that can become bloody), and possibly even loss of consciousness.
There are certain risk factors that predispose animals to heat-related illnesses, including:
• Being overweight can cause a pet to be especially heat sensitive. It is harder for them to cool down due to the extra body fat that keeps their temperature elevated.
• Respiratory issues keep animals from panting and ventilating well which is how they cool themselves down since they can’t sweat. Short-nosed, flat-faced dogs don’t breathe well to begin with so they quickly heat up. Elderly dogs can have restrictive airway diseases that inhibit air flow and decrease their ability to cool.
• Certain breeds of dogs are also less tolerant of the heat. Huskies, Malamutes, Labrador Retrievers, Bulldogs and Pugs are just some of the few who don’t do well in high temperatures.
• Very active dogs will not pay attention to the heat and will continue to run around and exert themselves. In a short period of time, they have overdone it and get too hot.
Here are some ways to help prevent overheating and heat-stroke:
• Keeping water available will help prevent dehydration and allow the animals to cool themselves by evaporating the moisture off their tongues. Having a fan available will also help this process.
• Limit the time they are outside. If they are going for walks, make sure that they go early in the morning or late at night to avoid the highest humidity and heat of the day. The length of the walk or the intensity of the walk may need to be lessened as well.
• Just like with children, do not leave a pet unattended in a car. It is tempting to take them along wherever we go but even short stays in a car can cause overheating.
So remember when the warnings are being issued for high temperatures and air pollution, not only does it apply to people but it also applies to our pets. Remembering that pets deal with heat differently and using common sense can help you keep your pets safe and cool this summer.
Emily Coatney-Smith is a veterinarian at Far Hills Animal Clinic. The clinic has been in business for more than 40 years. It is a small animal clinic that specializes in dogs, cats and exotics. It is at 6240 Far Hills Ave. in Centerville.