Listen as Dr. Mindy Cohan talks with Kathy about the keeping your pets hydrated, especially when it's hot out - and also how to care for a pet rattled by loud noises, like thunder.
Heat Related Illness
The Philadelphia area has already experienced several heat waves this summer. Heat and high humidity pose dangerous risks to both people and pets. Dogs are susceptible to heat stroke when allowed to exercise on hot and humid days or when accidentally placed in a confined space such as an automobile. A study found that the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one hour, even on a relatively cool (70 degree) day.
While all dogs can develop heat related problems when exposed to adverse conditions, some dogs are particularly susceptible. Unlike people, dogs do not sweat to cool their bodies. Dogs rely on evaporative cooling from the tongue, by means of panting. Dogs with flat faces such as Bulldogs, Pekingese, Pugs, Boxers and Boston Terriers are at a disadvantage when it comes to regulating normal heat balance. Dogs that are elderly, overweight, have heart disease, or have laryngeal paralysis are also more prone to becoming overheated.
Animals with heat-induced illness can develop the following signs:
• excessive panting and drooling
• red or pale gums
• weakness and collapse
More severe signs include vomiting blood and difficulty breathing. All body systems (kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, coagulation factors) can be affected by heat-induced illness. If not caught and treated immediately, the patient can develop life threatening multisystem failure, sepsis, and deregulation of the blood clotting system. Seizures and coma may develop if heatstroke progresses resulting in cardiac arrest and death.
If you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke, spray the pet with cool water or immerse in a cool water bath. Do not immerse pet in ice bath! Direct fans towards dog to further help with body cooling. Transport your pet to the nearest veterinary hospital.
To prevent heatstroke:
• Never leave pets in a hot parked car.
• Provide access to water and shade on warm days.
• Do not allow dogs to heavily exercise on hot and humid days.
• Walk pets early in the morning of after sunset during the summer.
• Never muzzle dogs in hot environments, take caution with dryers used at grooming facilities
It is much better to prevent heatstroke than to treat it!
Although July 4th has passed, fireworks can still be randomly heard throughout the summer months and they are guaranteed New Year’s Eve. In addition to fireworks, pets with noise phobias can also be scared by thunderstorms, gun shots, backfires, construction, and motorcycles. While cats can be fearful of loud noises, dogs are more commonly affected.
A phobia is “an extremely strong dislike or fear of something.” Examples of common phobias that affect people include heights, snakes, rollercoasters. Once fearful of an experience, it is difficult to overcome that fear in the future.
Thunderstorms are different than other events merely associated with noise. Dogs often become fearful before the storm arrives. Dogs begin to react when they sense a change in the barometric pressure or when they hear and see rain and wind. Both thunder and lightening associated with storms can dramatically affect dogs. Surprisingly, not all dogs with storm phobias are affected by loud noises and not all dogs afraid of loud noises are sensitive to storms.
Noise phobias are not only stressful for the afflicted dog or cat, they can be very unsettling for the pet parent. Watching your pet in emotional distress is heart breaking. Pet owners often feel helpless when it comes to comforting an upset dog or cat. Common symptoms of noise phobia include:
• Destructive behavior
If your dog or cat is very fearful of loud noises or storms, consult your pet’s veterinarian. Suggestions can be offered to help minimize your pet’s anxiety. One strategy is avoidance. By avoiding the offensive stimulus, your pet will have nothing to fear. However, since we cannot control the weather, avoid neighbors who light fireworks, or prevent local construction, this is easier said than done.
As pet owners, we can take measures to minimize our pet’s fear. For example, when fireworks or storms are expected, keep your pets inside and play the television or radio at a loud volume to drown out the offending noise. Allow your pet to hide wherever it feels comfortable. Never scold a pet or try to make it leave a secure hiding location!
During storms or fireworks, try to engage your dog in a playful game or obedience skill to redirect its focus. Nonprescription medications can be tried. There are pheromone products such as Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats that can be helpful. These products mimic the natural chemicals released by a nursing mother dog or cat and provide a sense of calm for pets. “Rescue Remedy” is a natural product that can also create a calming effect for stressed pets. A “Thunder Shirt” is a snuggly fitting coat that “hugs” the pet and gives a sense of security.
If non-medication products do not provide enough stress relief, a veterinarian should be consulted to discuss medications for your anxious pet. There are many different medications that can be tried, but not all can resolve noise phobias. Some pets benefit from a multimodal approach. Finding the solution to a pet’s anxiety requires time and patience and often the best plan is discovered by trial and error.