Tuesday, July 28, 2009 3:05 PM

It's Too Hot, Baby


Now that the summer heat is upon us, it's time to talk about how to protect our pets from the high temperatures. Dogs tend to be bothered by the heat more often than cats, probably because they spend more time outdoors (usually) and are more apt to go running errands with us in our cars. Heatstroke (hyperthermia) is very dangerous, however, and can be fatal for any mammal if not treated right away. Here are some tips on prevention and what to do if you think your pet has been affected.

Make sure that there is always a place for your dog to get away from the sun when he is tied up outdoors. If you have an outdoor kennel and run, that's great! However, many people leave dogs tied up in the yard without additional shelter. Don't count on the shade of the tree to keep him covered--if you must be gone for any period of time, put him in the house. Don't forget to provide plenty of fresh water, as it can get hot inside, too (unless you're lucky enough to have central air conditioning!).

Another common way for dogs to get hyperthermia is when owners leave them in parked cars during the summer. Now, I know this seems like a no-brainer, but EVERY YEAR there are incidents of this nature occurring, so it bears repeating. A car left in the sun, even with the windows down a bit, even if the air temperature doesn't seem that hot EVEN IF you're only going to be in the store a few minutes--this car can and will get too hot much sooner than you think. That, along with the stress of not being able to move around and look for you, can cause problems fast. If you bring your dog along on errand day, check first to see if the buildings you'll be entering allow dogs. Many do, at least in Massachusetts, unless otherwise posted. Unless they sell and/or serve food, you may be able to bring Spot along while you run your errands. Otherwise, he'll probably be better off staying home while you are out and about.

Cats, desert creatures that they are, don't handle humidity and heat together quite as well as one might think. They tend to find shady, cool spots when outdoors; you can't count on this, however. When we lived in the suburbs and I let Min and Sweet Pea outdoors, she would hang out on the cool earth under the evergreen bushes in the yard. Min, however, tended to lie right in the sun, panting until I would go out and bring him in. After noting this strange behavior, I kept them both in on hot days. Having indoor cats, of course, solves this problem completely. Again, always leave plenty of fresh water around. If you need to transport them on a hot day, use a carrier that is larger than you think the cat needs. Nervousness causes panting which can dehydrate a cat very quickly, and being squeezed in a tiny compartment will only exacerbate the problem.

Tomorrow: Recognizing the symptoms of heatstroke and what you can do about it.
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Amanda
Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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