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In Hot Weather, Pets Need Special TLC

(©istockphoto.com/Sepulveda Deniz) (©istockphoto.com/Sepulveda Deniz)

From the University of Pennsylvania

Veterinarians at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania offer the following tips to keep pets healthy and cool during the hot days ahead:

  • Do not leave your pet alone in your car - vehicles heat quickly in the sun, and animals left in them can succumb to heat stroke in a very short time. Heatstroke is life threatening for both dogs and cats. Signs to watch for are: heavy, loud breathing, a staggering gait, and a bright red tongue or gum tissue. If heat stroke is suspected, get the animal to a cool place, put cold compresses on his belly, or in severe cases completely wet him down so that his hair is soaked. This is a medical emergency - take him to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.

  • To prevent him from overheating, don't let your dog exercise in hot weather. If you want to run with your dog, do it in the cool hours of the early morning or late evening.

  • Dogs and cats need a cool, shady place to sleep during hot weather, as well as plenty of clean, fresh water, accessible at all times. Feed your dog or cat in the cooler hours of the day. Older animals have a hard time in hot weather, so be extra sensitive to their needs during the hottest hours of the day.

  • Be sure that your pet's vaccinations are up to date. Parvovirus, an illness that flourishes in hot weather, can be fatal to dogs that have not received their vaccinations. Also, be sure your pet's rabies vaccinations are current. During the summer months, pets often spend more time outdoors, and the chances of encounters with wildlife (possible rabies carriers) increase.

  • It's heartworm medication time. If your dog hasn't been tested for heartworm this year, see your veterinarian. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes, but it can be prevented by administering a monthly preventive between June and November.

  • Keep your pet well groomed. Daily brushing or combing lets you check for fleas and ticks. Fleas can cause allergic reactions and "hot spots" in dogs. Hot spots are large, wet skin sores that appear suddenly in areas where the dog has scratched. See your veterinarian for flea and tick preventives or if a "hot spot" appears.

  • Play with your pet instead of stroking him to fend off fear of thunder or loud noise. Playing a game with your pet when he shows early signs of anxiety, like pacing or trembling, can distract him from the stressor.  In the long term, it teaches him to associate that same stressor with positive things such as play and treats. Petting him is likely to make no difference - and, in fact, it may reinforce the attention-seeking that comes with nervousness.

  • Keep dogs away from picnic garbage. Ingesting corncobs and chicken and other bones can be life-threatening by obstructing or perforating the stomach. Also, according to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, the peels, fruit, and seeds of citrus plants such as lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruits contain varying amounts of citric acid, limonin, and volatile oils that can cause gastrointestinal irritation and result in vomiting and diarrhea. The stems, leaves, and seeds of apples, cherries, peaches, and apricots contain cyanogenic glycosides that can cause vomiting and loss of appetite when eaten in large amounts. In severe cases, weakness, difficulty breathing, hyperventilation, shock, and even death can occur. Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs.  All forms of onion can be a problem including dehydrated onions, raw onions, cooked onions and table scraps containing cooked onions and/or garlic. Left over pizza, Chinese dishes and commercial baby food containing onion, sometimes fed as a supplement to young pets, can cause illness.

  • If you have a swimming pool, do not leave your dog unattended in the pool area. Not all dogs can swim - they can drown if they fall into the water.

  • Use a heavy screen on windows or keep them closed if you have cats. During the summer, the number of cats suffering from "high rise" syndrome, or falling from windows, increases dramatically. Contrary to myth, cats do not land on their feet when falling from heights. The most severe injuries occur when cats fall from second- or third-floor windows.
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