Pet column: Celebrate summer safely with your pets
June 25, 2013
Although in Tahoe one never knows, it sure feels like "summer has come by gum." All the creatures are frisky and eager to get out and about. While humans have gone to the gym during winter and are buffed for seasonal adventures, many pets need time to get into shape so they can be equal partners. Common-sense safety measures can be taken for their safety and protection. In all seasons, make sure ID tags are up to date, microchip registration and license are current, and you are prepared to meet emergencies on land and water. Here are some reminders.
Check that pets are current on vaccinations and other medical needs including heartworm pills and flea and tick treatment if traveling to areas where these are hazards. Barbed seeds embed in skin, paws, ears, nostrils and eyes. Ticks wait in long grass to burrow in skin. If a pet is pawing at eyes or ears, squinting, rubbing his or her head on the ground, sneezing violently, or has inflamed spots on the skin, see a veterinarian immediately.
Prior to a good trek, condition your pet with shorter hikes to build up stamina and toughen paw pads. Hot asphalt burns pads and granite trails tear them up. Consider paw boots. Remember that the underside of small pets gets fried from asphalt heat radiation. Carry them. Temperature extremes are hard on elderly or overweight pets. Exercise them in the cool of the morning or evening.
Leave pets at home instead of in a parked car, even if on short errands. With windows open and car in the shade, 85 degrees outside becomes 102 degrees inside within 10 minutes. In 30 minutes, the temperature climbs to 129 degrees from solar gain, residual engine heat and pet panting. Brain damage (107 degrees) and death (120 degrees) can result. If you see a stressed animal in a hot car, make an immediate 911 call to animal control, police or sheriff.
Just as for humans when on the beach or in a boat, sun reflection is intense off sand and water. Some pets are very susceptible to skin cancer. Ask your vet about safe sun protection coatings for light-colored noses and ears. Keep pets groomed. A clean, combed coat helps pets stay cooler by preventing fur from trapping heat. Trim no closer than one inch to cool while protecting skin.
Keep pets hydrated with fresh, clean drinking water. Avoid Giardia by bringing water for both people and pets when away from home. Cool them down with a wet towel. Provide shade. Watch for the symptoms of heat stress: heavy panting, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, glazed eyes, rapid pulse and dizziness. Move an overheated pet into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water over the body to gradually lower temperature. Apply ice packs or cold towels to head, neck and chest. Let your pet drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
Antifreeze coolant is a sweet liquid poison that unnecessarily kills domestic pets and wildlife each summer. Check driveways, wipe up spills immediately. Eliminate toxic hazards like lawn chemicals and fertilizers, insect repellants and sprays, weed control products, slug bait, ant bait, rat poison and pool chemicals.
Especially for cats
Like dogs, cats pant to cool themselves. When the temperature increases, panting becomes less effective. Indoors, leave the thermostat on an energy saving but safe setting like 76 degrees. Make sure there is plenty of fresh water and provide access to the cooler parts of the house. Cats do not develop heatstroke as commonly as dogs do, however, just a few minutes in a car on a hot day can be deadly. Tests show that on a 71 degrees day the temperature inside a car parked in the sun with the windows cracked open goes up to 116 degrees in one hour.
Outdoor cats are more likely to have encounters with other cats and wild animals, increasing the risk of bite wounds, scratches and other injuries related to fighting, in addition to infectious diseases. Female cat fertility cycles are linked to the length of time they are exposed to daylight, so they may go in and out of heat repeatedly for months. Unwanted pregnancies and litters of kittens increase dramatically in the summer. Have cats spayed or neutered and keep vaccines up to date.
Bee stings, spider bites and related injuries are common in cats. Check in and out for beehives, wasp nests and other hazards. Outdoor cats are more likely to be bitten by mosquitoes infected with heartworm. Currently, there is no approved treatment in the United States for feline heartworm. A cat on heartworm preventive medication needs protection year-round. Never use a dog parasite prevention product on a cat.
Remember the Golden Rule: If you are uncomfortable, your pets are, too.
— Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to help "Keep Tahoe Kind." Dawn Armstrong is the executive director.