The heat is on!
After a mild winter with no snow and a cold, wet spring with a May frost, I guess we should expect nothing less than a scorching summer. It doesn't look like there's any relief in sight and these heatwaves can wreak havoc in the animal world, so I just wanted to put a few safety reminders out there.
Last week I had a bad experience with my senior dog on composite wood decking. If you have this type of decking at your house, I'm sure you're aware of how hot it gets when the sun beats down on it. I have a decrepit 15-year-old, 70-pound dog that has a very weak back end. She can still walk but her back legs work more out of habit than actual muscle control. I have recently had to start letting her out the door that leads to this type of decking because the steps down to the grass are wide and low, so she navigates them much easier than the other routes to into the yard.
Due to her age, I also have to let her out more frequently which means trips outside in the heat of the day. On one of those 90-plus degree days, I walked out ahead of her and when I turned back I found her standing in one spot in the middle of the deck trying to pick her feet up off the burning surface. Thank goodness I was able to get her back in the door quickly in spite of her size and delicateness. She was fine but it scared me to death because if I hadn't been watching her and she had fallen it could have ended badly.
I have covered heat hazards in previous columns over the years, but at the risk of being repetitive I want to take the opportunity to remind everyone of the necessary precautions.
The most basic is of course providing a constant, fresh source of cool water. Although this should be the case all year long, you can expect to have to fill their water bowls more often in the warmer months. Keep in mind that dogs especially are inefficient drinkers and may end up with much of the water on the floor; if they are hot and panting, this is especially so. Don't forget about your wildlife creatures as well; fill those birdbaths regularly!
Any pets with short snouts, such as Bulldogs and Persian cats, should not be left outside for long when the heat and humidity are bad. This is extremely dangerous for them as they are much more susceptible to heatstroke. Make sure all your outside creatures have cover and shade appropriate to their species. As with my recent experience, be careful taking your dogs out on hot surfaces like decking and pavement.
Finally, if your pet does get overheated, get him inside, cool him down gradually and get him to the veterinarian immediately if he shows any serious signs of heat exhaustion or stroke such as a lack of alertness, vomiting, staggering or tremors.
Stay cool, stay safe and keep your four-leggers beside you in the air conditioning!