The summer months can be uncomfortable even dangerous for pets and people. It’s difficult enough simply to cope with rising temperatures, let alone thick humidity. I can help you keep your pets safe and cool in summer but at first you have to know some information.
The Climate of Qatar can be described as subtropical Dry, hot desert climate with low annual rainfall, very high temperatures in summer and a big difference between maximum and minimum temperatures, especially in the inland areas. Summer (June to September) is very hot with low rainfall. Daily maximum temperatures can reach easily 40°C or more.
Average body temperature of household pets:
Cats : 37.8 ~ 39.3 °C
Birds : 38.8 ~ 39.5 °C
Rabbits: 37.5 ~ 39.5 °C
Practice basic summer safety:
Never leave your pets in a parked car
Not even for a minute. Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85- degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.
Watch the humidity
It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet, Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels very quickly.
Limit exercise on hot days
Take care when exercising your pet. Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, they are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.
Don’t rely on a fan
Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) And fans don’t cool off pets as effectively as they do people.
Provide ample shade and water
Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.
Cool your pet inside and out
Whip up a batch of quick and easy DIY peanut butter popsicles for dogs. (You can use peanut butter or another favorite food.) And always provide water, whether your pets are inside or out with you. Keep your pet from overheating indoors or out with a cooling body wrap, vest, or mat (such as the Keep Cool Mat). Soak these products in cool water, and they’ll stay cool (but usually dry) for up to three days. If your dog doesn’t find baths stressful, see if she enjoys a cooling soak.
Watch for signs of heatstroke
Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.
Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
Heatstroke occurs when normal body mechanisms cannot keep the body’s temperature in a safe range. Animals do not have efficient cooling systems (like humans who sweat) and get overheated easily.
What heat stroke can do to your pet?
- Brain damage in several cases may be permanent
- Organ failure if the body temperature 43 °C
- Kidney damage or failure
- Bleeding disorder
- Swelling of the upper airways
- Lung damage
Signs of heat stroke include:
- Constant panting
- Dragging behind
- Dry gums that feel sticky to the touch
- Dark red gums
- Acting wobbly or walking drunk
- An elevated heart rate
- Feeling warm to the touch, with red, flushed skin
- Dark, concentrated urine
The longer heat stroke progresses, the more deadly to your pet. Other life threatening signs to look for as heat stroke progresses include:
- Seizures or tremors
- Dark red colored urine
- Bloody or black, tarry diarrhea
- Difficulty breathing
- A racing heart rate
If you notice any of these signs, stop immediately and do the following:
- Call someone who can get their car and bring you to a veterinarian immediately
- Get your pet into the shade or to a water source so you can cool him down.
Unfortunately, even with treatment by your veterinarian, heat stroke can be fatal. The problem is that the heat destroys the cells in the body, with IV fluids, plasma transfusions, antibiotics, cooling measures, anti-vomiting medication, anti-seizure medication, oxygen therapy, and 24 hour, continuous critical care monitoring, organ failure can still occur.
Medical conditions that can put your dog at risk for heat stroke:
- Brachycephalic syndrome (e.g., a smooshed nose, smaller nostrils than normal, etc.). for you owners of Pugs, English bulldogs, Shih-Tzu’s, bullmastiffs, Pekingese dogs, etc., this means you! Basically, if your dog snores at night when he sleeps, he’s likely to have brachycephalic syndrome.
- Laryngeal paralysis (a cartilage problem that makes your dog breathe louder than normal at rest)
- Heart or lung disease
Preventative tips on avoiding heat stroke include the following:
- First, always check with your veterinarian to see if your dog is healthy enough or a breed that is safe to exercise with you.
- Avoid exercising in the midday sun, which ranges from 10 am – 3 pm. Remember, the head index is very high during this point.
- If possible, make sure to exercise in shade.
- If you’re near a body of water (e.g., water fountain, lake, stream, etc.), take the time to cool your dog down and allow him or her access to a drink while out.
- If you’re not near a water source, make sure to carry a water bottle or Camelback for your dog.
- For you roller bladers, keep in mind that your dog has to pace at a much faster rate than your walk or jog, so take it easy.
- Prevent your dog from becoming overweight to obese, as this predisposes your pet to overheating.
What NOT to do
- DO NOT USE very cold water or ice for cooling. Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body’s core from cooling and actually cause the internal body temperature to further rise initially. This can also eventually cause hypothermia, introducing a host of new problems.
- DO NOT overcool the dog. Once you get the body temperature down to 39 °C, STOP cooling efforts.
- DO NOT leave your pet unattended for any length of time.
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