AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's the first day of summer 2011, but Central Texans have felt temperatures that top 100 degrees for a few weeks now -- and so have their pets.
On Saturday, staff from Town Lake Animal Center and Texas Veterinary Medical Foundation , along with others, will be at Auditorium Shores from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to educate pet owners on how to keep their pets safe in triple-digit heat.
"Pets cool themselves the same way humans do—through the evaporation of sweat produced by the body," said Dr. Linda Czisny, one of Town Lake Animal Center's veterinarians. "The problem pets have is that they only have sweat glands on the soles of their feet. If that limited sweating isn't enough, they pant. But, if the air they pant is just as hot as they are, they're unable to cool down."
The result can be heat-related stress, heat exhaustion and even death. High humidity can make the heat even more deadly, since it slows the evaporation rate. If a dog's or cat's temperature reaches 108 degrees, brain damage can occur after just a few minutes, according to TLAC.
"Heat-related deaths often take pet owners by surprise, because a pet may seem to do just fine in the heat for years," Czisny said. "We need to remember that any time a pet has to work overly hard to stay cool, it takes a toll on the body's systems, so the pet may not be able to survive the next day's high temperatures. That's especially true for older animals or those whose health is already compromised in some way."
Prevention is the best course of action when it comes to pets and the "dog days" of summer. Allowing a pet to stay inside during the heat of the day, in air-conditioned comfort, is the best prevention.
If that's not possible, here are a few things to do to help pets stay healthy in the heat:
- Make sure a pet always has access to shade. Remember that shade moves throughout the day, so check to make sure there's something in the yard that will provide shade for a pet all day long.
- Provide plenty of fresh, cool water every day for a pet to drink and put it in a spot that is out of the sun and unlikely to be spilled.
- Set up a shallow "kiddie pool" of water in the yard can help cool a dog down in the heat of the day.
- Avoid exercising pets strenuously on hot days.
- Take plenty of water for a pet when out for walks or other activities.
- Never take a pet in the car if it is going to be left unattended. In the sun, the inside of a parked car can get as hot as an oven, even if the windows are left open.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion in dogs and cats usually start with heavy panting, followed by huffing, puffing or gasping for air. The animal may have difficulty walking or getting up because of dizziness, and may collapse or lose consciousness. If you observe these symptoms, immediately take steps to cool down the animal.
- Get the animal out of the heat and into an air-conditioned place, if possible.
- Provide a drink of cold water and rinse or spray your pet with cool water.
- Direct a fan toward the animal while its coat is damp.
- If necessary, place ice bags around the animal's head.
- As soon as the animal has cooled off, take it to a veterinarian for medical treatment.
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