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Keep pets safe from the heat this summer

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A dog awaits adoption at the Bossier City Animal Shelter. Space is hard to come by and should be remedied thanks to planned upgrades by city leadership. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

Keep your pets safe throughout the hot summer months as soaring temperatures can be dangerous for pets.

Summer has officially begun, so it’s a good time to remember that pets require special care to avoid heatstroke. Dogs cannot tell us when they feel hot, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our pets have sufficient shelter from the sun, an adequate supply of water to drink, and a way to cool off as the heat rises. Be aware of these essential needs when leaving your pets outside during the day. Moreover, do not forget that at this time of the year, it is life-threatening to leave pets in hot cars, even if they are parked in the shade, and even for just a few minutes! Each summer, the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital sees several heatstroke cases.

A dog’s body temperature is normally between 99°F and 102.5°F. A rise of three degrees to a temperature of 105°F can cause the dog to have heat-related illness. Puppies and kittens as well as older dogs and cats are predisposed to heat-stroke and heat-related illness. Also, brachycephalic breeds (those with short snouts or muzzles such as pugs and bulldogs) are at increased risk.

Early signs of heatstroke include rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, and gums that change from their healthy light pink color to bright red or even dull, grayish-pink. Vomiting and diarrhea can also be observed. Heat stroke is an absolute emergency! If your dog exhibits these signs, move him to a shaded area, soak the coat in cool water, and get him to a veterinarian immediately. These signs can be followed in minutes or days by collapse, organ failure, seizure, coma, blood clotting disorders, and death. All pets with heatstroke need to be treated immediately and monitored carefully for a few days.

Prevention of heatstroke is imperative. Please ensure that your outdoor pets have plenty of shade and water and never leave your pets in a parked car, even with the windows down. Make sure that your pet has a tip-proof bowl, so that he can’t spill his water bowl while you’re not at home. Also, outside water bowls should be kept in the shade, especially if they are stainless steel as these heat up quickly in the sun.

Lastly, do not go jogging or biking with your dog at midday during the summer. Even if you enjoy a jog or bike ride in the heat, it could have disastrous consequences for your dog. The concrete can also become too hot for the pads of your dog’s feet. Plan walks for the early morning or late evening hours when the temperature is relatively low. Make sure your pet’s exercise level is appropriate for the age, breed and body condition. Consult your veterinarian for advice. With a few minor precautions, you and your pets can have a safe and happy summer.

If your pet requires emergency medical care after-hours, you can bring your pet to the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Skip Bertman Drive; the hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for emergency cases. For pets and small exotics, call 225-578-9600, and for horses and livestock, call 225-578-9500. Go to www.lsu.edu/vetmed for more information about the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

About LSU Vet Med: Bettering lives through education, public service, and discovery

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 33 veterinary schools in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. LSU Vet Med is dedicated to improving and protecting the lives of animals and people through superior education, transformational research, and compassionate care. We teach. We heal. We discover. We protect.

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