Summer, summer, summer. This has been a hot one! The East Coast has been hit with record high heat and humidity this summer, making it a challenge to stay cool and have fun in the sun. Many of us are traveling to beaches or lakes for a refreshing swim or staying indoors in our air-conditioned homes to keep cool.
We need to keep our pets cool as well. Always provide your pets with shade and plenty of water when outdoors, and don't allow them to undergo strenuous activity if it is hot outside. If they get too hot, they can get heat stroke. Dogs cannot sweat to cool down like people. They can sweat a little through their paw pads, but the main way dogs cool down, which is rather inefficient, is by panting. Dogs with short noses are even less efficient at cooling themselves down by panting. If they do suffer from heat stroke, signs may include extreme panting, a high fever, bright red gums, weakness or even collapse. If you notice any of these signs, rinse your dog with cold water or cover your dog with a cold wet towel and bring your pet to a veterinarian immediately!
It certainly isn't easy to keep an active dog indoors when it's hot outside. Try to entertain them indoors by playing ball. If you live in an apartment, playing ball may not be an option, and if you do try to play ball it may leave you disliked by your neighbors. Instead, give Fido a toy that occupies his or her time, such as a toy filled with a treat that must be chewed on for hours to get to the yummy reward! Play dates with a friend's pet, teaching your pet a new trick or a game of hide-and-go-seek are all fun things to do as well. An afternoon at an indoor dog's athletic club where your dog can run, swim and play may also be an option. Yes, it is an option even in New York City! For cats, a laser light will keep them occupied for hours.
If you are one of the lucky ones that is able to travel with your furry friends this summer, there are precautions that must be taken as well. The Lyme and/or Leptospirosis vaccines may be needed depending on the region of the country in which you are traveling. Speak to your local veterinarian about your travel plans and the resultant recommended vaccines. Also, don't forget heartworm and flea/tick preventatives. Your veterinarian will advise you if these preventative medications are needed.
If you are traveling to the beach, make sure to carry a small bowl or collapsible dish to provide fresh water for Fido, and don't let him or her play too much Frisbee in the hot sun. While our dogs may love to play on the beach, it can leave them very thirsty. If you don't provide fresh water often at the beach, your dog will drink salt water, which can actually dehydrate them more by causing vomiting and diarrhea. Salt water has an osmotic effect, pulling liquid into your dog's intestines. This can cause diarrhea, which contributes to dehydration. If your dog drinks too much salt water too fast, he or she could vomit, leading to further dehydration. So don't forget the fresh water!
Finally, it wouldn't be summer without a delicious barbeque. While ribs and barbeque chicken are yummy and may at the worst cause us to gain a few extra pounds, it can cause our dogs to get very sick. Feeding our dogs high fat foods can cause pancreatitis. The clinical signs of pancreatitis in dogs vary, but include vomiting, anorexia, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness, dehydration and fever. Dogs may exhibit signs of abdominal pain by acting restless, panting, crying or wincing when picked up, shaking, standing with an arched back, or lying with the front end down and the rear end elevated.
If you notice any of these signs, they need to be seen by a veterinarian who can diagnose pancreatitis with a blood test or abdominal ultrasound, and then recommend the appropriate treatment. Also, don't let your pets chew on leftover bones and watch the trash if they are notorious for getting into the trash. If your pet swallows a bone, it can get stuck in his or her intestines causing vomiting and may end up requiring surgical removal. Watch the trash and keep your food on your plate. If you can't resist the urge, a little piece of lean chicken meat without the skin or seasoning can't hurt. We usually put aside a piece of plain chicken breast and grill or boil it for my dog!
Most importantly, don't forget to have a wonderful, safe and cool summer with your furry friends!