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Protecting Your Pet From the Heat

Keep your pet safe during hot summer months

Bright summer days and warm weather can tempt you to spend time outdoors with your pet. A game of Frisbee or a short car ride seems inviting in this season, yet they could pose a serious risk to your companion pet when temperatures rise.

Most people recognize pets need ample water and shade during hot months. However, every year companion animals lose their lives to heat exposure when they're left unattended in parked vehicles. On a warm day of 85 degrees, temperatures can soar to 102 degrees inside a vehicle within 10 minutes, even if parked in the shade or with partially opened windows.

"Pets left in vehicles for only a few minutes can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage, or even worse, they can die," says Eric Weigand, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).

Hot cars aren't the only danger for pets in the summer. Pets spending time outdoors in any activity should be carefully monitored for overheating. Intense exercise during the hot hours of the day can be especially dangerous.

The CVMA encourages pet owners to take precautions during the summer months to decrease the chances of disaster for pets:

-- Never leave a pet unattended in a parked car, not even "for a minute" or on mild days in spring and fall. Leave pets at home with plenty of water in a non-tip dish.

-- Limit pet exercise to cooler hours in the morning or evening since normal body temperature for dogs and cats is higher than for humans. Be especially sensitive to pets who have heavy coats or are older, very young, overweight, or ill as well as those with snub noses who cannot pant efficiently.

-- Stay clear of areas that may have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. Ingesting just a small amount of plant food, fertilizers, or insecticides can cause health problems and might even be fatal for your pet.

-- Carefully consider taking pets to crowded summer events or fairs. Loud noises and large groups, coupled with heat, can be stressful and dangerous for pets.

-- Hot weather increases the risk of mosquito, flea, and tick bites, which can be fatal in cats and dogs. Check with your veterinarian for heartworm prevention medication and recommendations for a flea and tic control program.

If your pet shows signs of heatstroke, you must lower its body temperature right away. Move the animal into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck, and chest or immerse it in cool, not cold, water. Encourage your pet to drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes, then call your veterinarian immediately.

"Enjoying the warm weather requires[...] responsibly," Dr. Weigand says. "By taking a few precautions, summer with your companion pets can be both safe and enjoyable."

For media interviews with a California veterinarian regarding this issue, please contact Phil Boerner at the CVMA: 916-649-0599. To access past CVMA press releases, visit the CVMA Media Center.

The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 5,400 members. Founded in 1888, its mission is to serve its membership and community through innovative leadership and to improve animal and human health in an ethically and socially responsible manner.

(Source: California Veterinary Medical Association)