Summer safety tips for pet owners, how to avoid heat related injuries (and trips to the veterinary emergency hospital) during hot summer days.

In the Treasure Valley and surrounding area, summer is upon us! We are expected to hit triple digit temperatures for the first time this summer. It is critical for all pet owners and caretakers to be aware of two potential heat issues regarding your furry friend: heat exhaustion and dehydration—both of which are considered to be a veterinary emergency and require immediate treatment.

HEAT EXHAUSTION. If you notice your dog has become restless, uneasy, lethargic, or seems to be experiencing breathing problems, seek veterinary care immediately. As dogs do not sweat the way humans do, they cannot tolerate extreme high temperatures. Panting is the mechanism that enables dogs to cool down. They exchange their internal warm body air for the cooler outside air—clearly an inefficient and ineffective process when the outside air is extremely hot.

Initial Signs/Symptoms:

• RestlessnessWestVet is Idaho's only 24 Hour Animal Emergency and Specialty Veterinary Hospital.1
• Panting
• Increased respiratory rate
• Increased heart rate
• Excess salivation
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea

As heat exhaustion symptoms progress, a dog’s body temperature increases and the physical signs become even more serious, including:

• Weakness
• Staggering
• Gasping
• Gum color may become brick red, then purple or blue (cyanosis)
• Seizures
• Coma
• Death

Treatment. If you believe your dog is suffering from heat exhaustion, seek veterinary care immediately— even if your dog’s condition does not seem serious. Cool water (but not iced water) can be used to begin to decrease his body temperature during the trip to the veterinarian. Soak towels in cool water and wrap your dog.

In many cases, heat exhaustion is preventable. Never leave your dog unattended in your car. A cracked window will not prevent your dog from overheating, even in milder temperatures. In addition, pets should have access to abundant shade and fresh water while outdoors in the summer time. The best advice, if it is extremely warm, outdoor access should be limited to short periods of time and your pet remain safely indoors.Avoid strenuous exercise, running, and hiking with your dog during the heat of the day. Be prepared to offer lots of water at regular intervals and offer more water than he/she typically drinks.

It is the very young and very old dogs that have a higher risk of developing heat stroke as well as Brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed dogs such as Pugs and Bulldogs) obese animals, long-haired dogs and those with black or dark furry coats.

DEHYDRATION. When a dog loses body fluids faster than he can replace them, he/she will suffer from dehydration. The most common causes of dehydration for dogs are severe;vomiting and diarrhea, as well as inadequate fluid intake, fever and severe illness or heat exhaustion.

A prominent sign of dehydration is loss of skin elasticity. When the skin along the back is pulled up, it should quickly spring back into place; in a pet suffering from dehydration, the skin stays upright in a ridge.

Another sign of dehydration is dryness of the mouth. The gums, which should be wet and glistening, become dry and tacky. Saliva is thick and tenacious. In an advanced case, the eyes are sunken and the dog exhibits signs of shock, including collapse.

Treatment. A dog who is visibly dehydrated should receive immediate veterinary attention, including intravenous fluids, to replace fluids and prevent further loss.

With a little extra care and awareness, you can help your pets enjoy the summer months, too. Stay cool, hydrated, and happy, everyone!

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