During the summer months, when temperatures are higher than normal, it’s important to take extra precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones cool; this includes your furry friends.
“Something I always like to talk about with my pet owners is, ‘If it’s too hot for us, it’s definitely too hot for them,'” says Dr. Phillip An, small animal general practitioner and owner of Sunset Veterinary Center, which is scheduled to open in September at Diamond Bar. He points out that pets, particularly cats and dogs, don’t have as many sweat glands as humans. Instead, they primarily regulate their temperature through panting.
But placing your pet in hot conditions, such as taking him for a long walk on a hot, sunny day, can have life-threatening and sometimes fatal consequences, since heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke in a matter of seconds. moments.
“Our pets, especially dogs, can be so loyal that they won’t show any discomfort until it’s too late,” says Dr. Jennifer Hawkins, a veterinarian and executive director of the Veterinary Medical Association of Southern California (SCVMA), based in Cypress. “So whether you’re throwing a ball in the middle of a hot day and you’re feeling fine, you might have a dog that will keep chasing that ball until he gets heat stroke.”
She adds: “That’s where I think pet owners may not realize that while we know we’re starting to get uncomfortable and we can come in and get some water and cool off, our pets may not let us know until that they are sick. ”
Hawkins points out that temperatures don’t have to reach triple digits for your pet to overheat, so pet parents need to be more aware of these potential dangers when temperatures are as low as 80 degrees.
Among the pets most vulnerable to heat-related complications are very young and old dogs and short-nosed dogs like pugs and bulldogs, which are especially popular in Los Angeles because they can’t breathe as easily as those that they have longer noses. Pets with medical problems also face a higher risk of heat-related illnesses, along with other small mammals like rabbits and guinea pigs.
“If you have a rabbit, chinchilla or guinea pig… they are very sensitive to heat and can die indoors if it reaches 85 or 90 [degrees] and there is no air movement,” says Dr. Clyde Pitts, owner of Studio City Animal Hospital.
You can stay hot in Los Angeles even after August: Here’s how to keep your animal companions cool in the heat and how to spot signs of heatstroke, according to local vets.
1. Never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle
Los Angeles is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the country, so it’s understandable that people like to bring them whenever they can. But on hot days, experts recommend that you leave your dogs, or any pets, indoors.
Veterinarians say that in the event that you have to take your pet with you, you should not leave it alone inside a vehicle under any circumstances. Leaving the air conditioning on, opening the windows, or being outside for just a few minutes are not enough protections, as temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels inside a vehicle.
“It’s just not worth the risk to your health and safety,” says Hawkins. “It can only take a few moments with balmy weather outside for the car to reach unbearable temperatures, let alone the heat we’re experiencing right now.”
2. Limit exercise and outdoor activity
There’s a reason many humans choose to exercise in the morning when it’s cooler outside or in the evenings when the sun goes down. This ideology should also apply to your pets.
Experts say you should limit exercise and outdoor activities, like walking and playing in the dog park, to cooler times of day. This is particularly important for dog owners because asphalt, common on Los Angeles roads, can heat up quickly. If a dog walks on a hot surface, they can seriously burn their paw pads.
“That can be very painful for them because now they basically walk around with big blisters on their paws,” said Dr. Julio Lopez, a board-certified specialist in veterinary internal medicine and owner of Encino Veterinary Center. “So I think it’s one of those things that we as people don’t really think about because we wear shoes.”
A common tip that veterinarians tell pet owners is to test the soil before taking them outside. You can do this by placing the back of your hand on the ground for about five seconds. If it feels too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for your pet. If your dog, for example, has a history of burnt paw pads, you may want to consider buying him dog booties to wear on walks.
It is also essential to adjust the intensity and duration of exercise on hot days. “Stop frequently to give them a break because they will try to keep up with you,” says Pitts. They are very loyal [and] they love us even though they are overheating.”
3. Provide enough water for your pet at all times
It’s always important to have fresh water within easy reach of your pet, but it’s especially important on hot days. Experts suggest having multiple spill-proof bowls for your pets and making sure they’re located in shaded areas.
And if you’re taking your pet outdoors, it’s wise to bring more water than you think they need and make sure they get a drink before heading out the door. Pet parents may also consider purchasing collapsible travel bowls, which often have a clip, making them convenient to carry.
4. Keep your dogs in cool, shaded areas indoors or outdoors
Whether your pet is indoors or outdoors for a limited time at home, many veterinarians say it’s best to keep them in cool, shaded areas. Owners of rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals that are normally kept in cages should also avoid placing the cages in direct sunlight. Also, hot air rises, so it is best to place the cages on a low surface. Placing a cold or frozen water bottle in the cage can help keep pets cool. If you don’t have an air conditioning unit in your home, you can use fans to keep the air flowing.
There are a variety of products, such as cooling mats and vests, that pet owners can purchase to provide comfort for their pets, but many experts say they are not required.
“Keeping your pets cool, in addition to your energy bill, should be relatively inexpensive,” says Hawkins. “There are a lot of great new products out there, like cooling beds, but they’re not necessary. a simple fan [and] using the shade are great ways to keep pets comfortable.” She points out that some pets, like rabbits, also don’t tolerate rapid changes in temperature.
She adds: “You just want to keep them fresh. You don’t have to keep them cold.”
5. Watch for signs of heat stroke
Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related complication, typically occurs when a pet’s body temperature exceeds 104 degrees. Common signs include excessive panting and drooling, discolored gums (no longer vibrant pink), vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy. Pets can even collapse or have a seizure.
“It starts with just an increase in their heart rate and they start panting…very, very subtly,” says An. “But if a pet parent is able to detect it early and [the pet hasn’t] been in this stressful environment long enough, it may not turn into this terrible sequence of events that, in some cases, can end up being fatal.”
If your pet shows any of these signs, experts recommend contacting your local veterinarian to seek medical attention. In the meantime, you can apply warm water to the sparsely furry areas of their skin (belly, groin area, armpits, and paws) and place them in a cool area.
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