08/01/06 — Animals need heat help

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Animals need heat help

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on August 1, 2006 1:48 PM

People aren't the only ones who need to watch out as temperatures continue to rise.

Domestic animals are just as capable of succumbing to heat exhaustion or a heat stroke, local veterinarians say.

Dr. Brian Stuber of the Berkeley Veterinary Clinic in Goldsboro said his office sees cases of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in domestic animals every summer.

There are many ways owners can prevent their pets from succumbing to heat-related illnesses. Most importantly, owners should let their animals rest in a cool place during the day while they are away at work, said Dr. Robert Rigsby of the Goldsboro Veterinary Hospital.

If it is not possible for the animal to rest inside with air conditioning, Dr. Stuber said an owner should provide a shady place for his or her animal to escape the heat.

"They should provide an area of good shade or even a dog house. But you want to put a dog house in the shade. Otherwise, it'll create a greenhouse effect and be worse off for the dog," Dr. Stuber said.

Providing fresh water daily will keep an animal hydrated throughout the day. Owners who keep their dogs outside in the heat could put ice cubes in the water so it stays cool throughout the day.

"I have some owners that will freeze a big block of ice, so the dog can lick it during the day," Dr. Stuber said.

Just like humans, dogs are cooled off by water. So, Dr. Stuber said, some owners should consider buying their pets a small wading pool and filling it up before they go to work in the morning. Then, the dog can enter the pool any time it needs to cool down.

Even something as simple as a fan can benefit an overheated animal. Dogs do not sweat like humans do. Instead, they pant to dissipate their body heat, Dr. Rigsby said.

Some dog breeds are more vulnerable to the heat, Dr. Rigsby said. These breeds include dogs with short, stubby noses, like pomeranians and pugs.

Obese dogs and cats also have a hard time dealing with the heat. The animal's extra weight adds heat to an already warm body temperature, Dr. Rigsby said.

"Most dogs have a temperature of 101 to 102 (degrees Fahrenheit), so they are already starting out a bit warmer than us," Dr. Stuber said.

A continuous stream of air could be just enough to keep an animal cool during the day, he said.

If a dog has been outside all day in the heat with no shade and is panting excessively, the animal could be suffering from heat exhaustion. To cool off the animal, Dr. Stuber suggested wetting down the dog with cool water for five to 10 minutes at a time.

If the animal's condition continues to worsen, take the animal to a veterinarian's office as soon as possible.

It is important to cool the animal down because too much body heat can cause brain damage, Dr. Stuber said.