Taking care of your pets in the heat of summer

  • Published
  • By Army Staff Sgt. Timothy Hair
  • F.E. Warren Veterinary Treatment Facility animal care sergeant
Summertime is well upon us. Many of us take this opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with barbecues, hiking, playing in the park, etc. Many of us take our pets out with us to enjoy these activities as well. Just remember that the heat of summer can be harmful to our beloved pets.

Dogs wear a coat year round and sweat only through their nose and paw pads, so they're more susceptible to heat than we are. Dogs cool themselves through panting and drinking water, so provide plenty of fresh, clean water in the summer. Keep their water bowls in a shaded area as sunlight can heat a water bowl to the point that it's undrinkable; who wants to drink warm water on a warm day? You should try to bring your pets indoors when the temperatures peak. Remember that sometimes it is not how hot it is, but how different the temperature is from what we are used to. Because I am from Texas, 86 F should not be that hot to me, but I have gotten used to the cooler temperatures of Wyoming, so I should not discount the heat.

I have been asked many times whether owners should shave their animals during the summer months. Well, the jury is still out on that matter in veterinary circles. What is most important is that you ensure that your pet's coat is clean and well brushed at all times. This will help keep the heavier undercoat thinned out, allowing your pet to stay cooler. A breed with a long hair coat can adapt. If you do decide to shave your animals, do not shave them too short. Remember that their hair coat provides them protection from the sun -- animals can get sunburns, too.

As I sit here and write this article, it is a lovely, average Cheyenne day. The sun is shining and of course the breeze is blowing. According to the weather app on my phone and the Weather Channel online, it is a mild 86 F with a real feel of 83 F. I placed a thermometer in my truck as it is parked outside the clinic. I rolled all the windows down half way. In about 20 minutes, the temperature inside my truck had reached over 100 F. I am sure you understand where I am going with this: never leave a dog inside a car in hot weather. A car's inside temperature can increase rapidly and significantly. Leaving the windows cracked is of very little help. Leaving your pet unattended in a vehicle is just not a good idea. It is best to plan your day so that it will not be necessary to leave your pet in the car at all.

Dogs will exercise past the point of exhaustion to please us. Be sensitive to you pets' health and comfort and try to exercise and play with them during early morning or early evening hours. Take frequent breaks, and learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion or stroke. When your dog is panting excessively and is does not stop panting long enough to swallow or sniff things, he is already becoming a heat casualty. Signs of heatstroke are panting uncontrollably, staggering gait, rapid heartbeat, listlessness, restlessness, dark red or purple gums and tongue and vomiting. If your dog does overheat, lower his body temperature gradually. The best method to cool a dog is by having cool water running over him and fanning him or moving him into an air conditioned location and giving him small amounts of cold drinking water or ice cubes. Then take him immediately to a veterinarian. A quick response could save your pet's life.

There is plenty of wildlife around and several of them are known reservoirs for rabies and other diseases; do not mess with the wildlife or let your pet mess with them. Some pets may have allergic reactions to insect bites and stings, so always watch your pet when you are out and about, especially in new areas. It is a good idea to take regular breaks and perform a general health check of your pet when enjoying outdoor activities. Important areas to check are the armpits, the groin area and the paws (top and bottom) and the face. These are the areas that are most likely to come into contact with biting or stinging insects or other wildlife. Please keep your pet's vaccinations up to date; it is the best way to protect them and us. It is also a good idea to use flea and tick preventives during the summer months. Most of these are now available over the counter at pet supply stores and veterinary clinics. It is often a good idea to discuss the preventives with your veterinarian.

The staff at the Veterinary Treatment Facility here will be happy to assist you. We are located in Bldg. 288 on the corner of Frontier and 5th Cavalry Avenues. We share a parking lot with the Independence Gym. Our hours of operation are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m. We are closed on Fridays, weekends and Federal holidays. All pets are seen by appointment only, and appointments are normally available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Call 773-3354 for more information or to schedule an appointment.