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Protect Your Pets From The Heat: Tips From A Local Vet

The heat is a major concern these days -- and it's not the only one.

They are our friends, and don’t you always look out for your friends? To some people, animals are more than simply pets, they are a part of the family to be loved and cherished.

And protected.

We’re in a delicate part of the calendar when it comes to caring for pets as this time of year they are vulnerable to a multitude of dangers, many of them preventable.

The obvious one is overheating in parked cars, where temperatures can quickly rise to over 130 degrees according to the Animal Protection Institute. And it doesn’t have to be high noon, either. If it’s 82 degrees at 9 a.m., inside a car it will get to 109 degrees.

Cracking the windows doesn’t help much, either.

"It’s not so much the heat as it is the ventilation,’’ said Dr. Phil Bolton, who has owned Redding Veterinary Hospital on Ethan Allen Highway the past three-and-a-half years after working the previous 16 years mostly as an emergency veterinarian.

"Panting is how dogs cool off. That’s how they get rid of heat," Bolton said. "So when a dog is panting it makes the heat that much worse. Dogs need air and there’s no ventilation in a parked car. Even if there’s a crack, it is not enough.’’

Be careful at the dog park, too.

It doesn’t take much running for your pet to overheat and start panting and breathing heavily. A dog’s temperature can quickly rise to over 105 degrees, and the symptoms of overheating include an increased heart rate, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and collapsing.

"When his temperature gets to 107, he’s done,’’ Bolton said. "Young dogs are especially vulnerable because they don’t know their limitations.’’

So always take a jug of water to the dog park and if he’s panting too much, rub him down with water.

Some dogs, like Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers love to swim, but in the water become susceptible to ear infections if the ears aren’t rinsed and dried. Also, if your dog isn’t thoroughly dried, he can develop a hot spot, which is when the fur against the skin is constantly wet and creates a rash.

It is natural to think about shaving your pet, and Bolton believes this is a good idea, but warns not to take too much off because their skin can easily become burned. There are dog-specific brands of lotion to use that aren’t toxic. Bolton also suggests a lotion with a high SBF such as a 30-plus that one would use on children.

When it is especially hot, save walks for the early morning or evening because hot asphalt can do damage to paw pads. And you wouldn’t wear black on a hot day would you? So if your pet has black fur, imagine how she or he is feeling.

Keeping your pet hydrated is essential. Take water to the dog park, and when out for long walks and drives carry bottled water and a little plastic bowl.

But there are other dangers, as well.

Just because you see a dog on a leash doesn’t mean it is protected. The more time spent outside, the more they are exposed to the potential of heartworm and other parasites. Why wait until your pet – cat or dog – is ill? Get them tested.

Dogs, as you’ve noticed, are notorious sniffers of other dogs and other animals’ feces. They learn of the other animal this way, but if the other dog is infected, parasite eggs are found in the feces and can be transferred to your pet if it sniffs or steps in the feces.

Ticks are wicked and carry Lyme disease, which your dog or cat can carry into the home. Mosquitoes are a source of heartworm.

An outside animal is also exposed to chemicals and poisons in the form of rodent poisons and insecticides.

Rat poison is made so it is palatable to rats, and subsequently, it tastes good to dogs and cats. Toxins are also prevalent in mulch, which is chemically treated for insects and wood diseases. Also, if your animals lick your face, make sure you haven’t coated yourself with repellent.

There are dangers inside, too, especially to cats.

Cats have tremendous balance and will land on their feet, but that doesn’t do much good after falling out of a two-story window. Curious by nature, cats will push against a screen when distracted by a bird or squirrel.

Because they land on their feet, cats are vulnerable to high tail fractures, which is a facture where the tail meets the spine. Such an injury not only makes it difficult to walk, but hard to urinate and have bowel movements without pain.

Just like kids, you can’t protect your pets from everything, but you can keep the odds in their favor with a little thinking and prevention. 

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