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Protect your pets from heat this summer

By Steve Thompson, Contributing writer
Published On: May 12 2011 09:02:14 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 26 2013 06:02:28 AM CDT

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Your pets are part of your family, and as such it is important to protect them during the summer. Hot weather and humidity can prove a dangerous combination for both cats and dogs, and the precautions you need to take will depend on a number of factors.

How Pets Cool Off

Most people know that dogs do not sweat during hot weather; instead, they pant. Cats, however, do sweat, according to Indiana University, specifically through their paws. In fact, cats use both sweating and panting for heat regulation.

Providing Necessary Resources

Pets will naturally seek out methods to cool themselves off during hot weather. If pets are housed outside during the summer, for example, it is important to provide them with a shaded area and a plentiful source of water.

If possible, it is also a good idea to keep them indoors during the hottest times of the day.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Pets will tell you if they are affected too strongly by hot weather, so it is important to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion.

According to the New York Red Cross, signs of heat stroke in dogs include increased body temperature (104 to 111 degrees Fahrenheit), heavy panting, red gums, lethargy, extreme thirst and rapid heartbeat.

Heat exhaustion in cats presents very much the same way, and might also include thick saliva.

Animals in Danger

Certain pets are more susceptible to heat exhaustion and heat stroke in hot weather than others. Older animals, for example, are not as strong as they were in their youth and might experience increased temperatures with much less provocation. The same goes for kittens and puppies who have not yet reached maturity.

Additionally, pets with thicker coats may experience heat exhaustion in hot weather more often. Many grooming facilities offer shaving services to help keep your pets cool during the summer.

Sunburns

Believe it or not, your pets can sunburn during the summer. Their noses, in particular, are vulnerable to UV rays. Pet owners can purchase sunscreen formulated specifically for pets to help keep animals safe when outside during the summer. Again, it is also a good idea to provide shade for animals who are housed outside.

Cooling an Overheated Pet

If your pets get overheated during hot weather, there are several things you can do to help cool them off and prevent further damage. Small amounts of water are recommended for overheated animals, but make sure to limit water intake. Drinking too much can cause damage to the kidneys and stomach. Pets can also be bathed in cool water until their temperatures start to drop. Cold water can constrict blood vessels and prevent the cooling process, so make sure to keep the water just under room temperature.

Limiting Activity

Most pets can have fun in the sun during hot weather as long as activity is kept to a minimum. Pay attention to your pets when playing in the yard or running at the beach, and make sure they have access to water on a regular basis.

Watch the local weather channel for news on the heat index. If a heat advisory is announced, it is usually a good idea to keep pets indoors or at least in the shade until temperatures cool off. This is an excellent guideline for making sure your pets are safe during hot weather.

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