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Every summer, veterinary clinics can set calendars by the number of heat related emergencies seen. The variety of symptoms run from dehydration to heat exhaustion to shock to even death.

In many areas of the country, temperatures reach the hundred-degree mark on a daily basis and heat stroke is a common occurrence. Regular as clockwork, dogs are brought in because the owner was going to run into the store for just a minute, got to talking to someone and thirty minutes or more passed.

In just minutes, a closed car can reach temps of 120 – 140 F. A common misconception is that a cracked window is going to make a difference. Take the test yourself. Let the dog out of the car, roll down the window 2 inches and YOU sit in there for 30 or so minutes with the engine off. Always remember, you have the option of getting out, your dog doesn’t.

Another common problem seen with dogs in the summer is the owners that like to let their dogs ride in the back of a truck. The number of instances where dogs have fallen out or been dragged behind a vehicle are staggering. If the results of falling out at 70 MPH weren’t enough, get a piece of sheet metal, set it out in the yard on a hot, sunshiny day and lay on it for several hours. Rolling every once in a while to get the full effect, of course. Burns to skin and the pads of feet are very common in dogs left to ride shotgun.

Animals tied up to trees, trailers, and posts are also high risk. In this scenario, dogs are not the only ones at risk. Owners often tie up horses, goats, lambs, ponies, and all types of livestock, never making sure that there is nothing the pet can get tangled up on. Never realizing, tangled ropes or chains make it impossible to reach shade or water.

After dogs, the most common pets to suffer from the heat are rabbits. It takes very little time in the sun to overheat a rabbit. Owners need to realize, as the seasons change, so does the angle of the sun. Make sure the cage is in the shade during the hottest part of a day. There is a great trick for keeping rabbits cool. Take a plastic milk jug, cut the top off and fill with water. Place the jug in the freezer overnight and then put it in the rabbit’s cage the next morning. This will work as both a cooling device and a fresh supply of water. It can also be used with most other types of pets.

Horses, on the other hand, can often tolerate heat if they are left alone and have plenty of water. Unfortunately, owners are often on vacation during the summer so there is time to “exercise the hay burners.” When doing this, use common sense. Don’t take them on long, hard rides in the middle of the day. Try to put in the riding times during the cooler parts of the morning or evening hours. Make sure they have had ample time to cool off before offering large quantities of water or food. If they come back to the barn hot and sweaty, walk them around and then wipe them down.

The natural tendencies of cats are to be self-sufficient. As long as they have shade and a fresh water supply, they can take care of themselves. It is when owners want to take them places or try to put them in cages outside, problems occur.

For those whose pets do become overheated, the first thing to do is to get it cooled off. The normal rectal temperature of a dog or cat is 101F. When a pet becomes overheated, temperatures in excess of 108F can be seen. If left untreated, seizures, coma, and death may occur. If you are unable to get the pet into the veterinarian immediately, put it in a bathtub of cool water and take its temperature. If you are dealing with a large dog, drape towels soaked in water over the dog, then us some type of pot to continuously pour cool water over. Ice can be added to the water, bags of peas or mixed vegetables can be used as ice packs behind the back of the head.

Every five minutes, check the temperature of the animal. Once it reaches 103F, take the animal out of the water and towel dry. It is not uncommon for pets to have problems regulating their temperature at this point so continue keeping tabs on it. It must be remembered that simple cooling off is not always enough to guarantee the survival of the pet.

Another thing is not to be lulled into a false sense of security. Just because the pet rides out the high temperatures and seems to be all right, doesn’t mean other problems will not creep up within a few days. The most common problem is kidney failure.

The best advice for pet owners is to keep pets and livestock as comfortable as possible during the summer. Always make sure there is shade and ample water available. If heat exhaustion does occur, get veterinary care as soon as possible. Proper prevention and care are the secrets to having a safe and happy summer for you and your pet.