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The heat is on

Published: Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 10:23 a.m. CDT

Summer is here, and while we shed our coats once warm weather arrives and switch to shorts and T-shirts, dogs and cats don’t have that luxury.

Pet owners should be aware of some of the dangers summer can bring for their animals. As a member of the animal welfare world, I always promote pets living in the household and being considered a family member, but the reality is that some animals are kept outside in the elements.

When temperatures really soar, put a few ice cubes in the water bowl. Make sure your outdoor pets can find some shade and have a shelter big enough for them to be comfortable.

Consider a small children's wading pool for the yard as a way for your dog to cool down.

Taking your pets along on errands and leaving them in the car can be a dangerous practice. A little heat outside a car can quickly make it very hot inside. On a summer's day of only 85 F, even keeping the windows slightly open won't stop the inside temperature from climbing to 110 F in 10 minutes, and to 140 F in 30 minutes.

Unless you have someone going along for the ride who can sit with your pet, it is better to leave them at home where they are safe. Just like humans, dogs and cats can suffer from a heat stroke.

Dogs' symptoms include panting, dehydration, warm dry skin, failure to respond to commands, rapid heartbeat and collapse. Signs of a heatstroke in cats include anxious behavior, panting, rapid heartbeat, warm dry skin and sometimes vomiting.

Offer your animal cool water and seek immediate medical attention. Do not immerse your pet in cold water as this will cause their body temperature to plummet and they could develop severe hypothermia.

Some cats and dogs can recover fully from heat stroke, if caught early enough. Others suffer permanent organ damage and require lifelong treatment. Sadly, many cats and dogs do not survive heat stroke.

If your pet is eating less during the heat, it is always a good idea to contact your veterinarian immediately. If no other symptoms are present, it could just be the heat causing them to eat less. Always make sure pets have plenty of fresh food and cool water available.

A good rule to follow is to stand on the sidewalk barefoot. If it is too hot for you, it's too hot for your dog’s paws. Footpad problems can be caused by walking them on hot gravel, pavement or sticky asphalt.

While all animals are at risk in the heat, puppies, kittens, obese and geriatric animal are more susceptible to warmer temperatures. Longhaired cats, short-nosed breeds of dogs and pets with respiratory disorders are also more susceptible to heat stress.

Keeping your dog and cat well groomed is important, but a very short clip during the hot months isn't a good idea. It doesn't necessarily ensure a cooler body temperature and could cause your pet to become sunburned.

Having a cat or dog in your life is a precious gift and your pet’s safety depends on you. Keep that in mind this summer when you and your pets are out enjoying the sun.

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