Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Heat Can Be Dangerous For Pets

Summers are no laughing matter here in
Mississippi, especially for those wearing fur coats.

Dr. Brittany Thames, assistant clinical professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences with the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, said dogs and cats are vulnerable to heat, but dogs are more prone to overheating, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

“Dogs do not sweat to cool off as humans do,” she said. “The main way dogs stay cool is by panting. As a general rule, pet owners should use extreme caution and avoid long stays outside when the heat index is over 80 degrees.”

Heatstroke happens when the animal is confined in a car or left outside with inadequate shelter. This can also happen when a dog is exercised for too long on a hot humid day. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, weakness or collapse, drooling, incoordination, vomiting and sometimes seizures.

“Many people think that parking in the shade, cracking the windows, or running the air conditioner from home to the store will keep their pets safe from the heat,” Thames said. “However, studies have shown that none of these efforts impact the rate of temperature increase in the vehicle. Dogs can also burn their paw pads if let in the back of a truck bed with or without crates.”

Thames said pets can sunburn just as humans do.

“Giving your dog a lightweight summer haircut can help prevent overheating,” she said. “Shave or cut down to one to two-inch length, never to the skin, so that your dog still has some protection from the sun.”

Brachycephalic breeds have traits that are harder to cool down because of their elongated soft palates and narrow nostrils. These breeds include pugs, Pekingese, bulldogs, Boston terriers and shih tzus.

Cats can overheat as well.

“Initial signs that typically indicate that heat is causing cats more distress include restless behavior as the cat tries to find a cool spot, panting, moist/sweaty paw pads, drooling and excessive grooming in an effort to cool off,” Thames said. “If a cat’s temperature continues to elevate, then collapse, seizures, coma or death may occur. Brushing them more frequently during hot months can decrease the heaviness or thickness of their coats.”

Dr. Andrew Mackin, professor and interim head of the Department of Clinical Sciences at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, said during the first few warm days of spring, CVM’s emergency service sees pets that are suffering from life-threatening heatstroke.

“Each year we find that the first hot and humid days of spring catch pet owners by surprise,” he said. “Pet owners need to be aware that in Mississippi, even warm spring days can be dangerous. If owners wait until the really hot summer days before taking precautions to protect their pets from the heat, it may be too late.”

By Brittany Jacks
MSU Ag Communications