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Tips to Ensure Pets Have a Healthy and Safe Summer

Clinicians at North Carolina State University’s Veterinary Health Complex remind owners that summer sun, soaring temperatures, and high humidity levels can be dangerous to companion animals.

rita hanel“If you are uncomfortable, it’s safe to say that your pet is as well,” says Dr. Rita Hanel, assistant professor in emergency and critical care. “Pets can suffer from heat stroke, dehydration, and even sunburn. While you can lower your body temperature by sweating through numerous pours in your skin, your pet has limited sweat glands—found mostly on the nose and the pads of the feet. It does not take long for a pet to become dangerously overheated.”

While all dogs and cats are at risk, older or very young pets, overweight pets, pets with heavy coats, short-nosed dogs and dogs and cats with preexisting disease may need extra care. Limit exercise on hot and humid days to early morning and evening, remember asphalt becomes very hot, keep the water bowl cool and refreshed, and ensure that cooling shade is always nearby.

Of course, never leave a pet in a parked car—not even for a minute when you run into the dry cleaners. On a pleasant 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows rolled down can still reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. Dehydration, heat stroke, and even brain damage to the dog or cat can occur.

Dr. Hanel advises owners to take immediate action if the pet is panting excessively or has difficulty breathing, has an increased heart and respiratory rate, glazed eyes, drools, appears weak or in a stupor.

“Place the pet in the shade or air conditioning immediately and apply cool—not cold—water to reduce the animal’s core body temperature,” says Dr. Hanel.  “Get help from your veterinarian as soon as possible.”

dog in poolA check-up visit with the veterinarian is a good way to begin a healthy and safe summer. Here are some basic tips to keep the summertime living easy:

As a resource for pet owners, the Veterinary Health Complex at  NC State provides a Small Animal Emergency Service weekdays from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., weekends from 5 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Monday, and 24 hours a day on legal holidays.

Call 919.513.6911 if you have a small animal emergency. For large animal emergencies, call 919.513.6630.