New Mexico's Pet Resource SUMMER 2008

Keep Cats and Dogs Safe in Hot Weather

By Monica Garcia

New Mexico is notorious for scorching summer days, which can quickly affect your dog or cat if you are not prepared to protect your animals from the heat. By following these simple precautions, the summer can be as safe and enjoyable for them as it is for you:

  • Never leave dogs in a parked car on warm days, even with a window open part way. Heatstroke can occur within minutes. Remember, the sun’s movement can change shaded parking areas into sunny ones. If the vehicle would be too hot for you to sit in it, it is certainly too hot for your dog.
  • The best time to exercise dogs is in the early morning or evening. Avoid hot asphalt, which can burn the sensitive pads of their feet. Don’t overdo it! Dogs often are so excited about going for a walk that they don’t recognize their limits in the heat.
  • Short-muzzled, overweight and old dogs and cats are particularly susceptible to the effects of heat. Keep them in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
  • Northern breeds of dogs, such as Huskies, Malamutes and Chow Chows have two coats, an undercoat and a longer guard hair coat that protect the dog in extreme cold. The long guard hairs also trap cool air when the dog is in air conditioning. These breeds are not native to New Mexico, and need to shed their undercoats in warm weather. Twice a year, they will “blow” their coats, earning them a reputation for heavy shedding. Frequent combing, including a water spray bottle mixed with a little conditioner, will help these breeds be comfortable.
  • Always provide plenty of cool, clean water in a tip-proof bowl. A water dish outdoors should be placed in an area that is always shaded. If a pail is used for water, it can be more tip-proof if it is placed in a plastic milk crate or in a car tire.
  • Bring dogs inside the house during the hottest part of the day. (Always keep cats indoors.) Make sure there are no unscreened windows or open doors in your home through which dogs or cats can fall or escape.
  • If dogs must be kept in the yard during the hot parts of the day, it is essential that there be a dark, shady place where they can escape from the sun at all times. A ventilated doghouse, a pen with shade cover, or a covered patio is a must. Providing a small wading pool for dogs is also good.
  • Apply sunscreen to the nose and tips of ears of light-colored cats and dogs.
  • If cats have access to a balcony, make sure that there is a permanent area of shade—a large empty cardboard box turned on its side makes a simple shelter. Do not shut cats out on a balcony where they cannot escape if the sun becomes too much for them.
  • Be alert for signs of overheating: heavy panting; glazed eyes; rapid pulse; unsteadiness or staggering; vomiting; or a deep red or purple tongue. Provide care by moving the animal to shade and applying cool water over the entire body to gradually lower the core temperature. Allow the animal to drink small amounts of cool water or have access to ice cubes. Provide veterinary care as soon as possible.

Most communities require shelter for dogs in their animal control ordinances. If you see a neighbor dog without protection from the elements, report this to your local animal control agency.

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