Heat and humidity pose hazards to pets, but the following tips can help them stay cool and comfortable
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
After a cold and rainy winter, temps are starting to sizzle. That means it’s time to think about your pet’s safety and well-being while he’s outdoors -- and indoors, too. Heat exhaustion is one of the risks facing dogs and cats in summer. Here’s what you might not have known about recognizing and preventing it, as well as protecting pets from other effects of heat.
Heat exhaustion or heatstroke can sneak up on pets and people. It doesn’t occur just in hot cars or after playing too strenuously in the hot sun. Brachycephalic pets -- think pugs, Persians, bulldogs and other short-nosed breeds -- can die indoors if the power goes off, leaving them for hours with no air conditioning. Sign up for power outage alerts from your local provider, or look for an app that will notify you so you can get home or ask a neighbor or petsitter to make sure your pets don’t overheat.
Those same breeds can develop difficulty breathing after just a few minutes outdoors when temperatures and humidity are high. That’s because they rely on the ability to pant to dissipate heat. Pets with heart disease, conditions such as laryngeal paralysis in large breeds such as Labrador retrievers or Newfoundlands, or collapsing trachea -- especially common in toy breeds -- as well as very young or old dogs are also at greater risk.
“Even just taking your brachycephalic or obese dog or dog with existing bronchitis or certain heart conditions on a walk in the middle of the day could result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke and a trip to the emergency hospital,” says veterinarian Jason Nicholas, chief medical officer of PreventiveVet.com. “We tend to see a lot of cases in the spring and fall,” he says. “In spring, people aren’t really yet thinking about the heat, and sometimes you’ll get those uncharacteristically warm days. In fall, people tend to let their guard down after summer and then we get those warm days that spring up unexpectedly.”
If your dog stays outdoors during the day or has access to the yard, make sure there’s reliable shade and fresh water available as the sun moves. A number of pet beds, some elevated for better air flow, come with covers. Look for one with fabric made to block the sun’s rays. An outdoor misting fan is another option to consider. In extreme temperatures, though, your dog will be cooler, safer and happier in the air-conditioned indoors.
A pup tent or soft crate made of similar fabric provides sun protection for dogs at agility or nose work trials or just having fun at the beach. Shade sails, canopies and tarps made of UV-resistant fabric are available at big-box stores and online. Regular misting from a handheld sprayer on the belly and paws helps keep pets cool, too.
Cooling boots can protect paws from hot asphalt, concrete or sand on walks. Better yet, schedule walks and play for cooler mornings and evenings.
A cooling mat or cooling coat or bandana can help your pet, but don’t rely on it for full protection on hot days. A cooling coat won’t allow your dog to participate in strenuous exercise or stay in a hot car for long periods. “The main thing with keeping them cool is paying attention to the temperature outside and their activity level and existing health conditions,” Dr. Nicholas says.
Most important, be your dog’s caretaker. He may love sprawling in full sun on hot concrete in 100-degree temps, but it’s smart to reduce the risk of sunburn or heatstroke by limiting sunbathing time. Keep him indoors or in a shady spot between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Make feline flea
Q: Help! My cat has fleas. How can I get rid of them?
A: You’re smart to want to protect your cat from these freeloading bloodsuckers.
Flea bites cause cats to be itchy and uncomfortable. (Did you know that a single flea can bite your cat up to 400 times a day?) They also transmit disease-causing bacteria that affect cats and humans, including mycoplasma, which leads to anemia in cats, and bartonella, the cause of “cat-scratch disease” in humans as well as other infections in cats. Worse, fleas reproduce like crazy. A single female flea can lay 40 to 50 eggs daily. With enough females in the right (or wrong) conditions, you could have a thousand or more fleas tormenting your cat in less than a month. So let’s get down to flea-control basics.
First, even if your cat doesn’t go outside, she needs to be on a safe and effective flea preventive. Fleas can still enter your house via your clothing or other animals. Or maybe your cat has an outdoor catio where she hangs out. Veterinary parasitologists now recommend keeping pets on a preventive year-round to prevent re-infestation.
Talk to your veterinarian about the best flea-control product to use for your individual cat and your locale. A product given monthly can control fleas as well as internal parasites and heartworms. (Yes, cats can get heartworms.) Starting a preventive when you first get a cat can help to protect her from any parasite infestations throughout her life.
Your vacuum cleaner and washing machine can complement the use of flea preventives by removing fleas and their eggs. Vacuum at least weekly, including upholstered furniture. Get beneath cushions, under furniture and in the corners. Wash your cat’s bed, as well as your own sheets, in hot water every week. That kills fleas and eggs. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Safety tips for
travel with pets
-- Road-tripping with pets this summer? Label kennels or carriers with cards that have your dog or cat’s name, photo, breed or mix, and sex status (unspayed female or neutered male, for instance). List health conditions, current medications or parasite preventives, and microchip status, if applicable. Describe your pet’s needs as far as handling (doesn’t like to be picked up, gets along with other dogs, escape artist and so on). On the reverse side, list emergency contact information, including a number for your veterinarian and the person(s) to contact about your pet’s care if you’re incapacitated. Include instructions about veterinary care if they are injured. Note that you or another responsible party will pay all expenses for your pet’s care, and sign the card.
-- A golden retriever named Max II is lifetime mayor of Idyllwild, California. Max’s chief of staff (aka owner), Phyllis Mueller, “bought” the election with a large donation to the town’s Animal Rescue Friends organization. The mayor’s platform, located on his website, promotes positive thinking, unconditional love to everyone, and good deeds -- including keeping Idyllwild beautiful by picking up litter.
-- Hepatic lipidosis -- accumulation of lipids in the liver -- is relatively common in cats. It often develops as a result of diseases associated with anorexia (appetite loss) and weight loss, such as pancreatitis or inflammatory bowel disease, but sometimes the cause is unknown (idiopathic hepatic lipidosis). These cats are usually older and obese and may have recently experienced a stressful situation. Always take your cat to the veterinarian right away if he hasn’t eaten for a couple of days or you notice that he’s dropping weight quickly. Thinking that he’ll eat when he’s hungry can be an expensive or even fatal mistake. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.