A Paws For Pets | Opinion

By Susan Rodabaugh, York Adopt A Pet

We have all been experiencing some hot temperatures these past few days. We need to protect our dogs and cats from the heat elements and be aware if the health dangers they can cause to our normally healthy pets.

Like people, dogs and cats are susceptible to increase in illness due to high temperatures. They can get sick very quickly if their temperature rises. A normal dog or cat’s temperature ranges from 100-103 degrees Fahrenheit. Problems then occur when the air temperature rises above your pet’s normal body temperature. They soon have difficulties lowering the excessive heat from their bodies which can result in stress and heat sicknesses. These include behavioral changes, dehydration, burnt paw pads and heat exhaustion.

During this heat wave, my cats like lying on the cool tile floors instead of lying in the windows. My dogs like to lie on the cool air vets and lie in the shaded areas outside. Their behaviors have changed during the hot summer days and nights. But I am mindful of their sensitivity to the heat and summer elements. They are drinking more water and eating less. They are sleeping more during the day and wanting to play more in the evening and at night. It also seems the stress they are experiencing is causing them to have less tolerance for each other. It is a good idea to have a safe cool place for your pets to relax during high heat index. Things should all get back to normal when the weather starts to cool.

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Dehydration occurs when our pets lose more fluids than they drink throughout the day. They do this by sweating through their paw pads, panting and drooling. Dogs and cats should drink about one ounce of water per pound of body weight. However, they do need more water during playtimes, outside activities and when it’s hotter than normal in their home or outside. Dehydration can lead to more serious illnesses, complications and death.

Signs of dehydration include dull tacky gums, dry nose, thick stringy saliva, sunken eyes, lethargy, excessive panting, lack of appetite and lack of skin elasticity.

Our pets also need protection from the hot ground, pavement, concrete, asphalt and truck beds. All surfaces heat up in the sun. Their paw pads are made up of a layer of pigmented fatty skin, usually pink or black, covering tissue. Any burns on the paws can come in just seconds. The rule to follow, if you are unable to keep your hand or bare foot on any surface for at least 10 seconds than it is too hot for your pet.

Check your pet’s paws regularly for damage and injuries. If your pet is refusing to walk, is limping, quickstepping, or licking and chewing on their paws, they may already be injured. You can consider using protective paw covers on your pet. Or, only let them out for short periods of time, walk them on the grass, follow a shady route, condition and moisturize cracks or scratched pads.

Heat exhaustion is an illness brought on by dehydration caused by exposure to high temperature for short or long periods of time. Signs of heat exhaustion include excessive panting, difficult breathing, drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness, uncoordinated movement and collapse. If you notice any of these signs get your pet’s body temperature down with cool water from a bath, pool or wet cool towel. Let them drink as much water as they want without forcing them and calling your vet.

Dogs and cats that are at a high risk to heat-related sicknesses are those who stay outside for long periods of time, who don’t have access to clean fresh water, those who accidentally get locked outside, and ones left in cars.

Dog breeds that are more at risk includes short noised breeds such as Bulldogs, Boxers and Pugs. Persians, exotic shorthair, Himalayan and Burmese constitute the cat breeds that would be more at risk. Some other high risk factors include senior pets, kittens, puppies, obese, or pets with long thick coats.

Your pet may be telling you they don’t feel well. Be attentive to their symptoms and don’t underestimate the problems that the heat can cause to our furry friends. Avoid putting pets in danger and at risk for heat illnesses.

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