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Pets Need Extra Care For Summer
By Kelli McPhail
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Pets may require more attention during hot weather, but a little extra care reduces the risk to a pet's safety and well-being.
When temperatures rise and pet owners go out of town, everyday care for animals may not be enough. Heat stress can cause serious side effects and is one problem pet owners need to be aware of.
Dr. Richard Hopper, Mississippi State University's Extension veterinarian, said heat stress, caused by intense heat or the over-exposure to heat, can fatigue any pet. Very young and older pets, overweight pets, short-nosed breeds, and pets with cardiovascular or respiratory disorders are more likely to be offended by heat stress.
"Symptoms of heat stress are behaviors such as excessive panting and salivation, staring or anxious expressions, failure to respond to commands, warm, dry skin, high fever, rapid heartbeat, fatigue, and muscular weakness or collapse," Hopper said. "If a pet does get heat stress, try to reduce its temperature slowly by putting the pet in cool water or applying ice packs to its head and neck. Do not allow an overheated animal to drink an excessive amount of water, instead provide small amounts of water with ice cubes."
Hopper said providing plenty of clean, fresh water at all times and supplying shade for pets when outside can prevent heat stress. Other precautions include giving plenty of air circulation and ventilation for pets kept in kennels, avoiding a lot of exercise for pets during hot weather and not leaving pets in parked vehicles.
Pet owners also should be aware that warm weather caters to fleas and ticks, which can be uncomfortable for not only pets but also pet owners. Treating pets and the pets' environment is important when trying to eliminate fleas.
"Bathing a pet and then following up with a flea and tick powder or spray is one way to kill fleas, but be careful to read the label and make sure the product is safe for the particular animal it will be used for," Hopper said. "Certain combinations of insecticides can be harmful to the animal, so ask a veterinarian for a safe and effective flea-control plan to follow. Also ask your veterinarian about new prescription products for flea control."
To disinfect for fleas and ticks, wash all clothing and items the animal came in contact with in hot water and soap. It also helps to vacuum thoroughly and throw away vacuum cleaner bags after each use.
Other than the inconvenience, bites from various ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and other illnesses.
"An animal is most likely to pick up ticks in wooded areas," Hopper said. "Prompt and careful removal of a tick from the pet's skin can reduce the chance of infection. Wear protective gloves and use tweezers to grasp the tick near its head while pulling it off."
Another area of concern arises when pet owners go on trips. Look at many options when deciding whether or not to take a pet on a trip.
"Boarding a pet or hiring a pet sitter are two options I recommend if the pet is left behind," Hopper suggested. "Taking a pet along can mean extra work at a time when most people want to be relaxing, but on the other hand will also assure the owners that the pet is safe and healthy."
Hopper recommended these tips if the pet goes on a trip with its owner:
- * Call hotels, motels, homes or parks ahead to be sure the pet will be welcome;
- * Be sure the pet has all required vaccinations and a current health certificate;
- * Take along the pet's regular food, any special medications, a supply of water and bedding;
- * Be sure the pet has a collar with an identification tag with the owner's name and telephone number;
- * Keep the pet in a cage or on a leash at all times;
- * Consult a veterinarian if the pet is suspected for car-sickness or might experience anxiety when traveling.
Contact: Dr. Richard Hopper, (601) 325-2194