Veterinarians: Pets suffer from summer heat, too

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High temperatures in the summer pose certain health-related risks for people. Those potential hazards can include sunburn, dehydration and heatstroke.

What many people may not realize is those same ailments can also threaten the health of pets.

Each summer, household pets face similar risks as a result of excessive exposure to heat.

"You think about how hot we get outside, put a fur coat on us and we would really be prone to heat stroke and heat exhaustion," McCandless Animal Hospital veterinarian Stacy Hudelson said. "And those kinds of things certainly apply to animals."

Hudelson said during the summer it's essential pet owners remember the number of ways to properly care for pets.

"Animals require adequate water and adequate shade," Hudelson said. "Don't take your dogs and cats in the car even if it's only two or three minutes while you run in. The temperature is going to rise dramatically. It can get to 120 degrees within five minutes. In a locked car, dogs cannot pant adequately to release that much heat. They're going to overheat really rapidly, and can have some pretty severe brain damage and even die. Those kinds of things are really the most critical."

Craig Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Wayne Davis said caring for a pet during the summer comes down to understanding basic needs.

"Basically, you don't want them to get overheated," Davis said. "And the way to keep that from happening is making sure there is plenty of shade, plenty of air circulation and plenty of water. A lot of it should be common sense."

Hudelson and Davis said there are ways to tell if a pet is experiencing heat-related problems.

"One, is knowing your animal," Hudelson said. "Obviously they're going to pant a lot. Especially dogs that are overweight or are old, or have medical conditions. And if a dog has a lot of hair, it's going to insulate them, so they're not going to be able to release as much heat. Also, dogs that just pant excessively or are so fatigued that they can't even get up - those are the kind of things that would indicate that they're getting pretty close to heat exhaustion."

"Watch for excessive panting," Davis said. "A lot of times they'll become very disoriented, and usually that's what we see. Their dog will almost act like they're fighting for air, but what they're trying to do is get rid of the heat with the panting. Dogs don't sweat like we do and so it's the panting that does it."

Hudelson said there are easy ways to ensure that pets do not encounter heat-related problems during the summer.

"Little things like adequate shade can make a big difference," she said. "And always have fresh, clean cool water available for them."

Hudelson and Davis said they see several cases of heat-related pet exhaustion each summer, typically from pets left in vehicles.

"The big thing is don't take your dogs in the car," Hudelson said. "If you're going to have to leave them in the car, just don't take them. It's too dangerous and too many things can go wrong."

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