How to protect pets when the mercury rises

Many people anxiously await the return of summer when they can wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts out in the sun. Although humans are able to keep comfortable in the heat by dressing accordingly, pets are not so lucky.

Pets can have a difficult time when the temperature soars. Certain animals, such as reptiles or tropical birds, are acclimated to hot temperatures. But other pets, including dogs, cats and even some small animals, can easily overheat and dehydrate.

*Schedule a check-up with the veterinarian. Prior to the dog days of summer, make an appointment with the veterinarian for a well visit to ensure any preventive care measures are taken. Refill flea and tick medications and have the animal checked for heartworm. Insects that transmit diseases are more prevalent in the warm weather, and more time spent outdoors can put pets at greater risk of insect bites or infestations.

* Get to know your pet. Heavy panting may be an indication that a dog is hot or not feeling well, while other dogs may pant for no apparent reason. Recognizing baseline behavior for your pet can make identifying a problem that much easier.

* Keep plenty of water available. Hot weather can cause a pet to use up its fluid stores much more quickly than when it is cooler outside. Before leaving the house, be sure that your pet’s water bowls are topped off. Think about putting some ice cubes in the water to slowly melt and keep it cool, but make sure your pet won’t attempt to chew the ice cubes, which can be hazardous.

* Know which pets are most at risk. Older, younger, overweight, and snubnosed animals (think pugs, shih tzus, Persian cats, etc.) don’t tolerate the heat as well as other animals.

* Don’t shave fur too short. The idea that shaving a dog (or cat) close to the skin might help them keep cool is a popular notion. While some longer-haired breeds may need a trim to keep cool, resist the urge to shave fur all the way off. This puts pets at risk for sunburn and skin irritation.

* Keep exercise to a minimum. Humans often feel lazy when the temperature soars and so may their pets. Overexertion during hot weather can lead to heat stroke, signs of which include panting, drooling, rapid pulse, and fever. Try to walk dogs early in the morning or late at night when the temperature is cooler. Do not keep animals chained up outdoors or sitting in hot windows during peak hours of the day.

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