Heat wave in NJ: How to protect Fido during the ‘dog days of summer’
As the “dog days of summer” roll on, and this excessive New Jersey heat lingers into yet, another day, it’s important not only to think about protecting ourselves but our pets too.
When we think about our pets and the heat, many of the same rules and principles that apply to people, apply to our furry friends, said Wayne, NJ veterinarian and veterinary advisor for Myos Pet, Dr. Albert Ahn.
Tips for keeping pets safe from the heat
Hydration is crucial. As pets cool themselves by panting, they are also losing a lot of moisture, he said. It’s very important that your dog has plenty of fresh water available to them so they can replace all of the moisture they are losing through breathing, he added.
Signs a dog may be dehydrated include excessive panting, dry nose, loss of appetite, sunken eyes, lethargy or a lack of energy, sticky gums, gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea or vomiting, and a decrease in elasticity of the skin.
In general, a dog needs about one ounce of water for every pound of body weight within 24 hours, Ahn said. So, for example, a 10-pound dog needs 10 ounces of water a day.
“But during the hot summer months or if your home doesn’t have the best air conditioning, and they’re really panting a lot, they may wind up consuming more than 10 ounces a day,” Ahn said.
It’s also important not to exercise your dog strenuously on extremely hot days. Avoid taking your dog out in the peak heat portion of the day, Ahn suggested. Instead, exercise them very early in the morning before temperatures rise, or in the evening when the sun goes down. That way, you’re not exposing your dog’s paws to hot asphalt or sand for any length of time. The temperature on the ground during a 90-degree day can easily burn your dog’s paws.
Ahn said he always tells parents to perform this simple, yet powerful experiment if they decide to walk their dogs in the bright sunlight. Put the palm of your hand on the asphalt. If you can’t keep your palm on the asphalt for three seconds or more, then it’s simply too hot to be walking your pet outside.
Avoid repetitive games, like fetch. Ahn said most pet parents are not aware that most injuries in dogs are caused by playing repetitive games. When a ball is thrown, the dog responds with a high-speed run, quickly twisting and landing in ways that can result in strain on muscles.
“But exercise is important even during the hot days just so that we can maintain good, strong muscles for our dogs,” Ahn said. Some older dogs who are prone to developing arthritis will actually benefit if they can maintain strong muscles through regular exercise.
Never, ever leave a pet in a car when running into a store, even for a quick errand. Ahn said it does not matter if the car is running or if the windows are open. It’s not a good idea.
“It’s always better to leave them at home in the air-conditioned comfort of your home because cars can turn into ovens within just minutes,” Ahn said.
How do you know if a dog is over-heated or suffering from heat stroke?
Like people, dogs can get nauseous and vomit when over-heated, said Ahn. Other signs of overheating would be heavy panting, hyperventilating or dry gums along with excessive panting and rapid pulse, and if they collapse and are unable to stand up.
Cool their body temperature by placing wet towels over the animal’s neck, between its armpits, and over its hind legs. Give the fresh, cool water.
Call your vet immediately or if it’s after-hours, head to a 24/7 emergency veterinary hospital.