Thursday, July 18, 2019

Hot Dogs?

It's that time of year again. Whether you believe in Global Warming or not, summer is the hottest time of the year and this one is shaping up to be a warm one. When it hits 90° F in Alaska, you know it's going to be a miserable summer.

I know, I know; Arizona and the southwestern US gets hotter, and the southeast has humidity that you can almost swim through. Here in the upper Midwest, though, the temperatures are pushing 100° F and the humidity is >50%. With the exception of a few mountainous areas and the far north, we all have to put up with heat, which means we all need to know how to recognize and avoid heat injury. David did a good job last month of covering how to avoid heat injury to yourself, but how many of us have animals? Pets and livestock are just as susceptible to heat illness as we are, more in some breeds and areas.

Dogs and Cats
Dogs and cats don't sweat the way we do. We have sweat glands all over our bodies; they have a few on the pads of their feet and around their noses.Sweat glands cool the body by pumping out water that carries away excess heat as it evaporates. Without enough sweat glands, dogs and cats rely on panting and external cooling to regulate their body temperatures. Working dogs need to be watched carefully since their activity can keep them from cooling off. Long-coated breeds will overheat faster, of course, but they all need to be provided with the same protection as humans:
  • Plenty of cool water to drink. Cool water will absorb heat from the inside and carry it away when they urinate.
  • Shade. Get them out of the sun. If it's uncomfortable for you, it's probably the same for your pets. Dogs and cats can get sunburn, especially if they have thin or white fur.
  • Rest or at least reduced activity. Unless it's an emergency, try to avoid using your working animals during the heat of the day.
  • Cool places to rest. Cats will find a cool place on their own usually, and the smarter breeds of dogs are pretty good about it as well. The knotheads that some of us have as pets may need to be shown a cool, shady spot in which to lie down. 
  • Never leave an animal in a closed up vehicle. That's cruel, criminal in most states, and an invitation to a busted window in most areas.

Exotic Pets 
These will have to be cared for as your veterinarian suggests. Cold-blooded pets like snakes and lizards are very tolerant of the heat, but birds and small mammals may need some extra care.

If you're raising animals for food or sale, the loss of even one of them can be a significant blow to your pantry or budget. Most of the signs of heat injury in animals is the same as for humans; lethargy, stumbling, loss of appetite, etc. Prevention is much cheaper (and easier) than treatment, so provide the same water, rest, and shade as you would a person. One of the farm insurance companies has a good list of symptoms and preventative measures on their website. Scroll down towards the bottom of the page and you'll see a table of the water needs for some common livestock. Make sure you plan for a way to provide fairly clean water for your animals when you're considering raising your own food.

Stay hydrated and as cool as you can this summer and think about what you can do in a SHTF situation to prevent heat injury. Use the search box in the upper left-hand corner for some of our earlier articles; we've covered a few ideas over the years.

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