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Surviving the ‘Dog’ Days of Summer – Advice for Pet Owners

Published on June 7, 2013 by Peter Tomala

Summer is a wonderful time of year for dogs. Many of them have been cooped up during the cold winter months, and as the weather warms, they get to tag along with their owners that are hiking, biking, boating and camping.

veterinary technology, Broadview University

Finding ways to keep your pet cool during the summer cannot be understated.

However, the warmer months also pose some serious hazards for our companion animals.  For example, students studying veterinary technology at Broadview University-West Jordan learn that heat stress is a common cause of severe injury and death to pets.  Unlike humans, dogs and cats do not have a lot of sweat glands.  Dogs cool themselves by panting, and cats cool themselves by grooming and sweating through their paw pads.

It does not take much for dogs and cats to overheat, especially if they are left in a car. NEVER leave your dog or cat in the car.  On a 70-degree day, even a few minutes in a car with the windows down can be deadly. If your pet stays outside during the day, make sure that they have easy access to plenty of clean water, and that they have some type of shelter or shade.  Avoid strenuous walks or exercise during the warmest parts of the day; try to aim for the cooler morning or evening times.

Symptoms of overheating include harsh panting, lethargy, a rapid or erratic heartbeat, foaming at the mouth and in the end stages: weakness, collapse, brick red gums and non-responsiveness.  If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stress, wet them down with lukewarm water and get them to a veterinarian immediately.  Do NOT put them in an ice bath.

Also make sure that your pets are on monthly heartworm preventative.  Heartworm disease is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito, and if left untreated can cause heart failure and death in dogs and cats.  The same mosquitoes that annoy us on our patios pose a serious health risk to companion animals.  Heartworm disease is more prevalent in states like Florida, but the number of heartworm cases is increasing in Utah.  The preventative is a monthly, chewable tablet, and can be obtained from your local veterinarian.

If you follow these recommendations, you can make sure you and your companion animal have a safe and fun summer.

Content Contributed by Broadview Resident Veterinarian Hope Teyler

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