Pets feeling the heat
Take steps to protect dogs, cats and birds from lethal heatstroke
YOU WOULDN'T send the kids outdoors in summer without making sure they're slicked down with sunblock. The feathered and furry members of our families need the same extra care during the hot months.
But while your children will tell you when they're uncomfortable or feeling ill, how do you read the signs or behavioral clues for canines and felines who often run and hide when they're sick?
'DOG WHISPERER' RETURNS
Cesar Millan, the canine soothsayer from the National Geographic Channel, returns to Honolulu Oct. 14.
Last year, a sold-out audience got advice from "The Dog Whisperer" on how to lead the dog pack.
The three-hour seminar will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the McKinley High School Auditorium, 1039 S. King St. Seminar topics include recognizing "animal" behavior in dogs, the humanization of dogs and how energy levels affect a dog's personality.
The cost is $105. Tickets are available through www.honoluluboxoffice.com, in person at 1188 Bishop St., Suite 109; or by calling 550-8457.
Dogs are not allowed at the seminar.
Here's a look at how to keep the nonverbal members of your household cool, calm and comfortable, courtesy of experts who gathered in Honolulu last week for the American Veterinary Medical Association Convention.
Dogs, because of their activity levels and eager-to-please natures, need the most monitoring during the summer. Your dog may love the outdoors, but just like people, it's still best that dogs -- and cats -- avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., suggested Mililani-based veterinarian Shelby Goo.
AS CANINES have sweat glands only on the tops of their noses and their foot pads, dogs mainly cool themselves by panting and by a little evaporation of sweat through their feet. Animals in Hawaii may be more used to more even, year-round temperatures, so avoid sending Rover and Fido outside when it's very humid.
Veterinarian Daryl Stang of Animal Clinic Kapolei advised curbing time spent outside for all dog breeds when the thermostat reaches the mid-80s. Brief exposure to sunny temperatures above 85 degrees is fine, Stang said, but if you're walking or running your pet, keep the activity under 20 minutes, preferably running at dawn or dusk instead.
"Dogs will keep going until we tell them to stop," said Stang. "They don't think anything of it."
Portable water bowls, collapsible water pouches and spray bottles filled with cool water will make a journey more comfortable, said Goo. Pooch visors are on the market, too. But if a dog is panting heavily, don't let him take in too much water too quickly -- and get a wilting dog into shade quickly.
CONSIDER cloud coverage, humidity, activity and your pet's general health in gauging whether to let your pet outside. Body temperature for felines and canines naturally hovers around 101 degrees; a temperature of more than 103 is an indicator of internal problems. "Over 103, you need help fast," said Brenda Beaver, former president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Reactions to sun exposure include everything from sunburn to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Sensitive foot pads and bellies are especially prone to burning, and redness will be apparent on lighter-colored dogs. "If you can't walk on the sidewalk in your bare feet," said Beaver, "it's too hot out for your pet."
A bit of aloe vera can provide a cooling touch for minor sunburns.
Think twice about putting an animal in the back of a truck. "If you put your hand down on the bed and it's too hot to touch, it will be the same for your dog," said Beaver. "And black-haired dogs, or cats, heat up really fast."
Just as with kids, do not leave pets locked in a hot car without ventilation, even for a few minutes. "Heat exhaustion happens more often than you think," said Steven May, publisher of VETZ Magazine. "It's very common."
LIGHT-COLORED, fine-haired dogs such as Chinese Cresteds are especially prone to sunburn and skin cancer. Your veterinarian can recommended a non-irritating sunblock made with zinc oxide, which can be dabbed on the tops of noses and the tips of ears.
Older, younger and overweight dogs are most sensitive to heat; dogs with flat or short noses, such as pugs, bulldogs and other breeds with respiratory problems, often have the most trouble adjusting, as do long-haired dogs. Make long-haired dogs such as Huskies more comfortable by keeping their dense fur clipped short during the summer, said Goo.
Access to water and a shade are givens, but May further suggested wetting down an animal's environment to bring down the temperature several degrees. Soak the driveway and lanai, put down blankets or dog beds in a shady spot, offer bowls of fresh water and a few ice cubes, and perhaps run a sprinkler for brief periods. Or fill a kiddie wading pool with fresh water regularly, said Beaver. Trees and shrubbery can also bring down the temperature by about 10 degrees.
If your dog is fed outdoors, May recommended moistening dry dog food to prevent bloating. Otherwise, dry food can expand in the stomach, particularly in deep-chested dogs who consume a lot of water. Also, allow time for food to settle before taking your dog out for exercise.
Cats naturally head for shady spots outdoors. Indoor cats will often find respite from the heat in bathtubs, sinks and on cool ceramic floors, according to TheCatSite.com.
Though felines are less likely to exert themselves than their canine counterparts, they are equally prone to heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Cats will try to cool themselves down by excessively grooming, seeking relief through a layer of salvia. "Cats do not have good temperature regulators on their skin," said Beaver. "When they're out in the sun, they can singe their hair and not even be aware of it."
IF YOU SUSPECT heat stroke or heat exhaustion, it's never to early to call the vet, said May.
Beaver seconded that opinion. But while waiting for help, "If an animal is down (unconscious), pack them with ice, and get the fans on them," said Beaver. "Keep them moist."
May suggested wrapping your pet in a cool towel soaked in lukewarm water for the ride to the vet -- but take care, as semiconscious or anxious animals may strike out with claws or teeth. Beaver advised running the air conditioner and fans, and coating fur with rubbing alcohol to immediately cool down out-of-control body temperatures before jumping into the car.
Early warning signs of heat exhaustion include listlessness, lethargy, glassy eyes, diarrhea, panting in cats and excessive or a sudden stop in panting for dogs, and vomiting. Take your pets' temperature with either pet ear or rectal thermometers, but at the first indication of discomfort, go to the veterinarian or an emergency-care center; a professional can administer intravenous fluids or even oxygen, if needed.
Don't forget that animals kept indoors can be endangered, too. Make sure your house or apartment is well-ventilated.
"With cats, I have never seen an incident of heatstroke that wasn't caused by a person (here)," said Stang. "The negligence was the owner's fault -- they've locked their pet in a hot apartment or in a car."
Added Beaver: "You can be creating a comatose animal for life. If you catch the symptoms early, it can be a transient situation, but the blood systems are going crazy, and can lead to internal bleeding and death."
Don't over-cool a room, either -- temperatures shouldn't dip below 65 degrees. A good rule of thumb is your own personal comfort. "If you're uncomfortable, they'll be uncomfortable," said Goo.
FINALLY, if you have indoor birds, move cages away from windows and keep curtains drawn if you leave, Petnet.com advises. Although a bird cage -- or an aquarium -- may be in a shady spot all morning, afternoon sun could come streaming through a window.
"Pets can't tell you what the problem is. (But) pets are really part of the family," said May. "We're just as much mommy and daddy to our pets as we are to our children."
QUESTIONS FOR YOUR VET
Veterinarian Steven May, publisher of VETZ magazine, provided this list of issues to address with your pet's vet:
1. How are my pet's airway, breathing and circulation (the ABCs)?
2. How often should I vaccinate my pet?
3. Do you see any lumps or bumps around the tail, eyes, ears, inside the mouth or on the tongue?
4. Is my pet on the right nutritional diet for its weight and age? Is it a healthy weight?
5. Besides checking the nails, can you check the pads and each digit for abnormalities?
6. Does my pet have tartar or any chipped teeth?
7. Is there dirt or inflammation in my pet's ears?
8. Can my pet have a glaucoma exam?
9. How often should my pet have a fecal exam, blood analysis, urinalysis or heartworm test?
10. What preventive medications can I use now to help prevent heartworm and Lyme disease? When should I schedule my next visit?
Also: Discuss any behavioral problems, mental or physical changes -- many times they can be an early indicator of an illness.