Help your pets beat the heat


RAPID CITY, S.D. – The dog days of summer will soon be upon us and with temperatures already in the 80s in May, it might just be a really hot one.

Our beloved pets are actually more sensitive to the heat than we are because they don’t sweat through their skin. Dogs and cats actually sweat through the pads of their paws where they have sweat glands called merocrine glands. They also have fewer sweat glands than people do.  Dogs and cats compensate for this in a process called thermoregulation by panting. When they pant, heat rises up from their chest and escapes through the moisture on their tongue, mouth and throat through evaporation.

If the temperature outside is uncomfortable for you then it’s safe to say it’s also uncomfortable for your pets. When temperatures reach 75 degrees or more you need to start keeping a close eye on them to prevent heatstroke.

Never leave your pet in a vehicle even with the windows cracked in warmer temperatures.  On an 80-degree day, the temperature inside your vehicle can reach 100 degrees in ten minutes.

Heatstroke in pets can lead to seizures, organ failure, loss of consciousness and even death.

Older and younger pets are more susceptible to heatstroke because they don’t regulate their body temperature as well.  Larger breeds and more active pets have increased vulnerability and are also at higher risk.  Overweight animals as well.

“If they are overweight, what we call weekend warriors in people, the same thing applies to dogs. If they hold down the couch five days a week and you decide to go for a really long or strenuous hike the odds of getting heatstroke are pretty good,” said Dr. Melissa Master, owner of Master’s Veterinary Clinic. “Some of the early signs are, you can start to see their gums getting really red and panting a lot harder than normal.”

Pet owners should also watch for difficulty breathing, lethargy or slowing down, signs of dehydration including dry nose and gums and sunken eyes, excessive drooling, a temperature over 103 degrees, not urinating, rapid pulse, muscle tremors, vomiting and diarrhea.

“If you do think your dog is getting heat stroke make sure you don’t take them and drop them in the nearest super cold creek or dump a bucket of cold water on them,” said Dr. Masters. “We actually don’t want to shock them that much.”

If you suspect your pet has heatstroke immediately get them somewhere cooler, applying cooler, not cold water, to their ears and paws can help prevent fever, let them drink room temperature water, and put them in front of a fan.

“Rubbing alcohol is really effective to help cool them down. Put it on their paws or abdomen, places where they loose a lot of heat can really help through evaporative cooling.  It’s about the safest way to cool them down,” said Dr. Masters.

If your pet loses consciousness, has seizures or starts vomiting, get them to a veterinarian immediately.

Other ways you can help prevent heatstroke in your pets is to make sure your pet has plenty of water and shade if they spend a lot of time outdoors, bring them inside during the hottest part of the day and keep your house cool, like your car the temperature inside of your home can rapidly rise, and do not walk or hike with them in peak temperature hours.

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