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Agony Of Da Heat (Keeping Pets Cool In Summer)

With a stretch of record-high temperatures coming our way, it’s time I share a few of my tips for keeping companion animals comfortable. I have tons of weather-related tips, so I suspect I’ll be writing a series of posts with hot weather tips. Here are a few to get us started…

treats-bonito flakes-cat man dooDrink Up

My main concern during heat-waves is dehydration, so I look for ways to increase the moisture in the diets of animals I’m caring for.

At the very least, I’m putting out extra water dishes for everyone. With cats, I’m placing the dishes in unexpected places (except where visually-impaired animals might trip over them).

Getting extra water in the diet is especially important for cats and dogs who eat primarily (or exclusively) dry kibble diets. If they’ll eat their food with water mixed in, do this as often as possible.

If you feed them wet food, stir in extra water. Few of them will turn away watered-down food from cans and pouches.

With many animals, I’m also adding things to the water that entices them to drink more. One excellent option are bonito flakes because they have a strong smell, float on top of the water, and are ok for both dogs and cats.

Chilly Treats

ice-lick2For animals who have favorite treats, I put some in the fridge so they’re a bit cool. This even works for crunchy dog biscuits.

Another exciting treat is to freeze a few treats into an ice cube (or block) so animals have to lick the ice to get to the treats. Instructions are available at http://www.petbrags.com/forum/topics/five-great-summer-treats-for-dogs and on many websites. I would not add any broth, as some people suggest, because it usually contains salt which will dehydrate them.

A handful of companies now make special frozen treats for dogs and cats. You can find these at local healthy pet stores, such as Fluffy and Floyds and Pet Works. Remember that cats are lactose intolerant, so giving them ice cream can make them feel icky or have diarrhea.

Screen Tests

“During warmer months, the ASPCA sees an increase in injured animals as a result of High-Rise Syndrome, which occurs when pets – mostly cats – fall out of windows or doors and are seriously or fatally injured,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital.

Avoid leaving windows – even screened windows – wide open unless you’re certain that your animals can’t fall out of the window. Test your screens by pushing on them to see whether they’ll stay put if your cat (or dog) leans against them. If your screens are the type that pop out of the window easily, as mine do, consider using baby gates or window gates/safety guards for added protection. As a worrier, I only have windows open more than a few inches when I’m there, supervising activities. At home I use baby gates.

Keep It Cool & Low-Key

Limit vigorous exercise to cooler times of the day. This can be tough to do with active dogs who get really excited during playtime and who beg me to keep playing. But I’d rather play it safe.

I also avoid walking on sidewalks or streets when they’re hot. Of course it can be hot on their paws, so I use the palm of my hand to I test the surface before taking dogs on walks. If it’s too hot, I look for options where we can walk on cool grass, dirt, or moss. Dogs whose bodies are close to the ground are closer to the heat radiating from the ground, too.

heatstroke-posterWatching For Signs of Overheating

I always have an eye out for signs that animals are overheating. The most common are listed below.

  • panting or wheezing
  • increased heart rate
  • increased respiratory rate
  • drooling
  • mild weakness or lethargy
  • glazed eyes
  • unsteady or staggering gait
  • deep red or purple tongue
  • seizures
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting

Dogs and cats with flat faces, like pugs and persians, are particularly at risk because they can’t pant as effectively as other breeds. Others at higher risk are those who are older, overweight, have heart problems, or have lung diseases.

Contact your vet immediately if you observe signs of overheating in your companion.

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