Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Wednesdays Helpful Pet Tip #8
The temperature here in the Midwest has been in the 90's! I don't have central air and I have to get some help putting the window units back in for the summer. I have fans going in the mean time and my dogs are all in front of them blocking the air. The cats like to lay in the sink or the tub where it's cool or they stay downstairs where it's much cooler. But this weather has got me thinking that this needs to be my next Pet Tip! This first information was adapted from New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs and Cats, by Amy D. Shojai.
For pets that are sensitive to heat, the steamy summer months are not only uncomfortable, they are also the time when the risk of fatal heatstroke is highest. Thousands of pets die needlessly every summer from over-exposure to heat.
Learn how to protect your pets from this easy-to-prevent killer. Here’s how:
Heatstroke is an emergency that needs medical attention as soon as possible. Even before you take your pet to the vet, however, you need to start cooling her body down by putting her in a tub of cool water, for example, or by applying wet towels or ice packs to her body, says Susan G. Synn, D.V. M., a veterinarian in Atlanta. When you are in the car, turn the air conditioner on high and get to the vet as quickly as you can.
* Your pet pants a lot even when the temperature is cool.
* She appears tired during the warm months.
* Her gums are suddenly bright red.
Dogs and cats don’t take off their coats in warm weather, and they don’t sweat like people do. (An exception is the nearly hairless Sphinx cat, which sweats so much that it needs to be toweled off every day.) Pets pant in order to dispel heat, but it isn’t a very efficient system; they naturally run a little on the warm side. and some pets, such as those with dark, heavy coats, are much more susceptible to heat than others.
Veterinarians worry when pets seem unusually warm, because overheating may be a symptom of underlying problems. A dog who can’t walk half a block without overheating may have a heart problem or be overweight.
You will want to see your vet right away if your pet is suddenly panting much more than usual. The chances are good, however, that she just can’t stand the heat. Here are a few ways to keep her a little cooler:
Best Bet! Encourage her to drink. Pets that are sensitive to heat need to drink a lot of water, especially during the summer months. The problem is that the body’s thirst mechanism ins’t always as sensitive as it should be, so pets may not drink all the water they really need. To encourage them to drink more, Dr. Harrison recommends giving them ice chips or ice cubes throughout the day. Many pets like crunching ice, and it helps get extra fluids into their systems.
Another way to get the benefits of water – at least with dogs – is to get them wet. Spritzing them with a hose or encouraging them to lie in a kiddie pool will cool them off in a hurry. Even sprinkling the grass where they play will keep them a little cooler.
When dogs and cats lose fluids, they also lose electrolytes, essential minerals like calcium and sodium that they need to stay healthy. Giving your pets an electrolyte solution like Pedialyte or Gatorade will quickly replace these minerals, and they will probably like the taste. You can add several tablespoons of one of these drinks to your pet’s water every day.
Get the air moving.
Even on mild days, your pet’s coat traps a lot of heat and holds it next to the skin. Putting her in front of a fan or, better yet, near an air conditioner will circulate air through the fur and keep her cool.
Check for dehydration.
Since pets that are sensitive to heat may run low on fluids, you need to watch for dehydration. A quick test is to gently pinch the area between the shoulder blades. The skin should snap back into its usual position when you let go. Skin that stays in the pinched position for three to five seconds is a sign that your pet is dehydrated, and you will need to call your vet right away.
Most importantly: Never, never leave your pet in a closed car.
I decided to add a bit more information of cats and heat. I think most people just think about dogs being outside or in a car, but cats are also susceptible to heat issues. I gather this from:
If you don't have air conditioning, you seek out shady spots and sigh in relief from the slightest breeze, otherwise you huddle inside. Your thirsty body craves fluids, and the beverage of choice suddenly becomes water. If you stay in the sun too long you may become dizzy, have heart palpitations, and increased internal temperature, all signs of impending heat exhaustion.
Consider this: before you ever reach that point, your cat may also be showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Although heat stroke is more commonly discussed in dogs, because of people's propensity to leave them in parked cars, cats can be affected too. Cats can't always tell you they're not feeling up to par, but they sure can show you. Early symptoms of heat stroke and the accompanying dehydration are:
•Anxiety, possibly demonstrated by pacing
•Respiratory distress or hyperventilation (Breeds with flat noses may exhibit this earlier because of compromised airways.)
•Dark red gums
•Increased internal body temperature Your cat's internal temperature should be between 100.5° and 101.5° F. A temperature of 104° or more is a definite warning sign. Here's how to take kitty's temperature.
How to Help Your Cat Avoid Heatstroke
You can help your cat survive extremely hot weather by keeping him indoors in a cool interior room. Rubbing him down with a damp towel will help; so will immersing his feet in a tub of cool water. Wrapping a cold compress under the cat's neck will also help cool him off. He may fight at first, but most likely will appreciate it once he gets used to the idea. Try wrapping a plastic bag of frozen peas in a towel, and placing in in his bed for a cool spot to lie. The peas will rearrange themselves to fit his contours and he'll have a "custom spa" for cooling off.
Make sure he has several bowls of cool water available. It doesn't hurt to drop an ice cube in once in awhile, not only to cool the water, but to pique kitty's interest in drinking. Strangely enough, cats affected by external heat may refuse to drink water, exacerbating the problem of dehydration, so you may want to "force" water by using an eyedropper or syringe. Be careful not to shoot the water down his throat as it can enter his lungs and/or cause choking. Just dribble a drop or two at a time in the corner of his mouth, which will help hydrate him and draw his interest to drinking on his own.
If your cat exhibits any of the signs above that lead you to think he is suffering heat exhaustion, cool him down as quickly as possible by immersing him in cool water, and then wrapping him with wet towels. Then get him to the veterinarian immediately. This is a serious, potentially fatal condition.