Heatstroke and Summer Hazards
Filed in Cats, Dogs, Safety
Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation for your dog or cat. Dogs and cats can't sweat like we can, so they have a much harder time dissipating their heat than humans do. The only way they can cool down is to pant. Panting is not very effective when it is hot and humid outside. Most people know never to leave a pet in a car on a warm day, but not everyone knows of the risk of heatstroke simply playing in the yard. Pets that are overweight, have heavy fur, or have short muzzles (Boston Terriers, Pugs, Himalayans, Persians) have a hard time when they get hot because they cannot cool themselves enough by panting.
When a pet gets too hot, the first symptom is excessive panting and stumbling. They often seek out water to lie in or drink. Sometimes they will simply collapse. If you are in your car or at a park, find the nearest veterinary hospital quickly. If you are at home, take your pet's temperature with a rectal thermometer. If it is greater than 105 degrees Fahrenheit, you need to start emergency cooling measures and call your veterinarian. Applying cool water to your pet's body will help the cooling process. Direct a fan right at your pet, give him or her ice cubes to lick or chew and apply rubbing alcohol to the pads of the feet. The pads of the feet do sweat so applying the alcohol helps the moisture evaporate more quickly from the surface. If your pet is not responsive, you need to get immediate veterinary attention.
Even when treated, some pets suffer long-term consequences from heat stroke. Some pets will not survive, especially if they have already collapsed when they are found. Take care to prevent this emergency medical situation from occurring.
Camping and hiking can be fun for the entire family. Beware of local critters that can be dangerous to your dog. Snakes, when cornered, can be quite dangerous. Depending on where you live, you may or may not need to worry about venomous snakes. Copperheads are one type of venomous snake that dogs come in contact with. The bite of a copperhead will cause massive swelling at the location of the bite. This is a real problem if the bite is on the head or neck, especially. Rattlesnakes are not very common in some states, but they are in others and their bite is often lethal. Antivenin is required to reverse the devastating effects of a rattlesnake bite.
Fourth of July celebrations bring an additional concern for your pets. Many dogs are afraid of loud noises such as thunder and fireworks. A fireworks display is not a good place to take your dog. The loud noises and crowds are not a good mix. Many pets become frightened and will try to run off, may hurt someone (without intending to), or may get overheated. Leave your dog inside in a safe place. Turning on some music or the television will help cover the noise of the fireworks and keep your pet from becoming very anxious. If your pet has a severe fear of loud noises, ask your veterinarian about medications to help get your pet through the holiday and consider going to a neighbor's to enjoy your fireworks.
One final summer hazard your pet might face if food related. Summer often means barbeques, picnics, or any type of gathering involving eating. Make sure that your dog (or cat) can't get to the leftovers or the main course itself. Eating a large amount of “people” food can cause serious illness in pets. Pancreatitis is a very serious disease that affects some dogs or cats that eat a high fat meal (such as hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs). If you suspect that your pet ate a large amount of food, call your vet for advice. Remember, leaving a platter of meat or the trash can out where it is accessible is like putting a cupcake in front of a two year old child and walking away, expecting them not to eat it! Even the most well behaved dog can have a lapse when it comes to the temptation of a tasty treat.