Friday, June 3, 2005

Summer pet care

A moment for paws by Christine Ferguson


Christine Ferguson

By CHRISTINE FERGUSON

When the lazy days of barbecues and swimming holes roll around, you can make them even better by sharing them with your favorite pet. By following a few summer pet safety tips, you can keep your animal friends healthy and enjoy the months of sun and fun.

· Never leave your pet in the car. Though it may seem cool outside, the sun can raise the temperature inside your car to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of minutes, even with the windows rolled down. If you need to run some errands, leave the furry ones at home.

· While you're outside enjoying the warm weather, keep your pets under control. It will keep them from getting lost, fighting other animals, and eating and drinking things that could make them sick.

· Bring them inside. Animals shouldn't be left outside unsupervised on long, hot days, even in the shade. Shade can move throughout the afternoon, and pets can become ill quickly if they overheat, so keep them inside as much as possible.

· Water, water everywhere. Whether indoors or out, your pet needs access to lots of fresh water during the summer, so check the water bowl several times a day to be sure it's full. If you and your furry friend venture forth for the afternoon, bring plenty of water for both of you.

· Pets need sunscreen too. Though all that fur helps protect them, your pet can get sunburned, particularly if they have light skin and hair. Sunburn in animals can cause problems similar to those it can cause in people, including pain, peeling, and skin cancer. So keep your pet out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and when you do go out, rub a bit of sunblock on unprotected areas like the tips of their ears, the skin around her lips, and the tip of her nose.

· Make sure your pet doesn't overexert. Though exercise is an important part of keeping your dog or cat at a healthy weight, which helps her body stay cool, overdoing it can cause her to overheat. Keep the walks to a gentle pace and make sure she has plenty of water. If they're panting a lot or seems exhausted, it's time to stop.

Take it easy on pets that can't deal with the heat. Elderly, very young, and ill animals have a hard time regulating their body temperature, so make sure they stay cool and out of the sun on steamy summer days. Dogs with snub noses, such as Pekingese, pugs, and bulldogs, have a hard time staying cool because they can't pant efficiently, so they also need to stay out of the heat. Overweight dogs are also more prone to overheating, because their extra layers of fat act as insulation, which traps heat in their bodies and restricts their breathing capabilities.

Keep an eye out for heatstroke. Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, you must act quickly and calmly. Have someone call a veterinarian immediately. In the meantime, lower the animal's body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of the body. Often the pet will respond after only a few minutes of cooling, only to falter again with his temperature soaring back up or falling to well below what is normal. With this in mind, remember that it is imperative to get the animal to a veterinarian immediately.




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