According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first six months of 2010 have been the warmest ever recorded around the globe, and the dog days of August haven’t even arrived yet.
Most of us know that children and the elderly are especially susceptible to heat-related ailments, but pets are vulnerable, too.
Just like their human counterparts, animals spend lots of time outside during the summer months and they face an increased exposure to heat, trauma, poisons and infectious diseases, says Kenneth J. Drobatz, director of Emergency Services at the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital. But with a little common sense pet owners can make sure their furry family members stay cool, calm and healthy.
Keeping your pet cool during days of record-setting heat is key. Be aware of the air temperature and heat index outside and inside your home. Drobatz recommends offering your dogs and cats plenty of shade and fresh water, or letting them spend their days in an air-conditioned setting, if possible.
Exercising in excessive heat can also lead to serious problems. “Dogs in particular will run until they die from heatstroke,” Drobtaz says, “or at least pass out and then develop severe complications.”
If you notice excessive panting or salivating, weakness, vomiting or diarrhea in your dog, get it to the vet as soon as possible.
Pets and people tend to increase their outdoor activity during the summer and that exposes them to a wide world of biting insects, as well as possible allergic reactions.
Keeping your pet well groomed can help. Daily brushing or combing allows you to check for fleas and ticks that can transmit infectious diseases to both you and your pet.
Still, if your pet is bitten or stung and has a reaction, Drobatz says you can administer Benadryl at a ratio of 1mg per pound. If, for example, your dog weighs 75 pounds, it can be given up to 75 mg of Benadryl.
But if the allergic reaction is severe, you should get the animal to the vet as soon as possible. Like humans, pets can experience swelling so severe that it could affect the lungs and respiratory system, making breathing difficult. (All University employees can bring their pets to Community Practice at Penn Vet, a first-of-its-kind program offering the most popular general wellness services for dogs and cats).
When it comes to playing in the water, contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are natural swimmers. Never leave your dog unattended around a pool area because even if it knows how to swim, it may not know how to get out of the pool after diving or falling in.
Lastly, cat owners should be particularly careful to use heavy and well-secured screens on their windows, because during the summer the number of cats suffering from “high rise” syndrome (falling from windows) increases dramatically.
Originally published on July 22, 2010