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Column: Summertime heat
Andrea Walker.jpg
Andrea Walker
Feddy the dog
Feddy (yes, that’s spelled right!) reminds pet owners everywhere to keep their pets cool during this summer’s high heat. - photo by Andrea Walker

It’s that time of year. Summertime in the South with sweltering heat and blistering sun. Summer is here and it is hot. People have been running the A/C, jumping in pools, and heading to the lakes for months now. We will do almost anything to stay cool and it’s just as important that we keep our pets cool too. During the summer, we tend to see more people out and about and being more active with their pets, but activity in the heat can cause problems for pets.

Dr. Wendy King of Spears Creek Veterinary Clinic in Elgin explains, “It’s important to remember that with the heat comes danger for humans and pets, and while it may seem pretty clear, some people just don’t realize the dangers of the summer heat on our pets. Just like humans, dogs and cats can overheat and even sunburn. But unlike us, dogs and cats do not sweat. They cool themselves by rapid breathing. When it’s hot for you, it’s even hotter for them.” According to the American Veterinary Medical Association thousands of pets die each year from heat exhaustion and many more visit their veterinarians with heat related illnesses and injuries.

At Fostering Foster, we take extra steps to keep our pets cool, like making sure they have fresh, cool water and making sure they have access to shady areas and indoor shelter from the heat.

Here are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that your pet doesn’t end up in a heat related crisis:

1. Keep your pet inside during the hottest part of the day. If you have outside pets, make sure they have plenty of cool shade to escape the sun’s hot rays.

2. Provide plenty of extra cool water. Make sure all water bowls are out of the sun. Did you know that pets are less likely to drink hot water?

3. When it’s hot out, don’t let your pet linger on hot surfaces like asphalt and cement. Heat from the ground can heat their body quickly and that hot asphalt can cause burns and injuries to their paws and areas of their body with less fur. If it’s too hot for bare feet, it’s too hot for delicate paws.

4. Keep walks to a minimum. When you do walk your pet, walk in the early morning when surfaces have had time to cool down overnight.

5. Offer your pet several ways to cool off. Leave a floor fan on in a place where they can sit in front of it, add some ice cubes to their water or offer them a cool treat. Frozen cubes of broth or canned food is cooling and a great way to entertain your pet.

6. Believe it or not, pets get sunburns too, especially those with short or light fur. Apply sunscreen to ears, noses and bellies but make sure you use sunscreens made specifically for pets.

7. Know the signs of heat stroke in animals. Some of the signs of distress are restlessness, excessive panting, excessive drooling, weakness, increased respiration, vomiting, diarrhea and their gum color becoming purple or blue. If an animal is overheated, get them to a cool place and apply cool (not cold) water all over their body. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes and go immediately to a veterinarian. Do not wait to see if your pet improves -- it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

8. Never, ever, ever leave your pet in a parked car. Not even for a quick errand. The inside of a car can reach oven-like temperatures in minutes. Just a few minutes can turn into a disaster and mean the death of your pet.

I love seeing pets out and about with their humans, but do them a favor and leave them at home where it’s cool and comfortable. They’ll be glad to hear all about your day as soon as you get home, from the comfort of your airconditioned sofa.