Let’s take a break today from our current discussion on oral ailments to treat a more acute problem affecting our pets.

20090920petlogoAt present in Guyana, we are confronting a truly hot spell. Humans who are suffering seek subsidence from their ‘sufferation’ in air-conditioned offices, cars, beer gardens and homes – those who can, that is. Unfortunately, few companion animals experience the luxury of a temperature regulated environment.

Neither dogs nor cats have sweat glands in their skin. Sweat (perspiration) helps get rid of heat accumulated in the body and assists in cooling the animal (eg horses) down. Since the body temperature has to be regulated, so that the animal does not go into a heat shock, the animal’s defence mechanism ensures that it breathes more rapidly (panting), and thereby gets rid of the excess heat.

We, the protectors of our wards, must make certain that we do not create conditions which will place a stress on our pets’ ability to cope, in their own way, with the environmental heat. In fact, our focus must also be in establishing the type of surroundings which will be compatible with and conducive to the pet’s well-being.

Below are a few pieces of advice which you might wish to follow, in order that your companion animal (especially dogs and cats) will not succumb to the present heat wave.

1)  Never leave your dog or cat or hamster or reptile or amphibian in a parked vehicle, irrespective of whether there is someone in the vehicle, or the windows are rolled half-way down, or the vehicle is in the shade. Never place a cage with an animal in an area where the sun can shine on it.

Of course it is worse if the vehicle is placed in an unshaded area and the windows are rolled up. So often it happens that the pet owner takes ‘Rover’ for a car ride and parks under the Guyana equivalent of the ‘Spreading Chestnut Tree.’ The owner then goes shopping with the intention of returning quickly. Well, ‘shopping’ and ‘returning quickly’ are too mutually exclusive concepts. Further, the car might have been in the shade at 8 am; but by 8.30am, it is experiencing the full blast of the morning sun. And ‘Rover’ is still inside.

I once saw a case where a monkey was in a small cage on the verandah when the sun ‘turned.’ The result was literally a barbequed monkey. This was not a willful, premeditated and malicious act. Careless it was, and lethal too.

Owners suffer greatly too when, through a great fault of their own, a loved pet dies. My friend and father of a former MP to this day cannot overcome his grief at leaving his Rottteweiler in the car in the ferry-hold during a 3 hour trip from Tobago to Trinidad. The poor dog did not survive the crossing.
The moral of the story is not to have to experience this horror at all.

2)  Don’t force your animal to exercise after a meal in hot, humid weather. Exercise him/her in the early morning or in the evening, and keep walks to a minimum, during this current hot weather.

3)  Never leave your dog standing on hot asphalt. His body can heat up quickly and his sensitive paw pads can burn.

4)  Do not take an animal to the beach or to a river ‘lime,’ unless you can provide a shaded spot and plenty of fresh water for him to drink. Rinse him off after he has been in salt water.

5) It’s smart to provide plenty of shade and/or a well-constructed kennel. The kennels should be at least one foot off the ground, so that the dog can go under the shaded kennel and enjoy the cool, moist earth. Bring your dog inside, if possible, during the hottest part of the day, and make sure she has plenty of cool water. Keep cats indoors.

6)  Dogs that are overweight or geriatric (old) need special and sensitive care during this extremely hot season. Ensure that they have adequate drinking water at all times; and if you can keep them indoors, please do.

7) Certain snub-nosed breeds (Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos/Tibetian, Terriers, Pekinese, Shih Tzus, etc), long haired breeds, dogs bred for and which live in cold climates fare badly during the hot weather. They have to be pampered with air conditioning. If you could afford such breeds, you must have an AC unit.

8)  Dogs that are ailing or recovering from an ailment (especially heart and lung diseases) should be kept constantly cool.

9) Do not place your dogs in an area where they can pick up poisons. Avoid walking your dog in areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. Be alert for coolant or other automotive fluids leaking from your vehicle. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste, and will ingest the poison, especially if they are thirsty.

10)  I would suggest that you test your animals for heartworm infestation – generally and especially during the very hot season. You don’t want the heart function of your dog to be compromised by heartworms.

11) During this hot period all long-haired dogs should be shorn and the animal should be constantly groomed (= combed and brushed). Do not shave the hair down to the skin; this will make him/her more susceptible to the UV rays of the sun. You may trim the long-haired dog’s coat to about one inch from the skin.
These tips should ensure less heat stress for your pets during our current long, dry ‘summer.’

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead.  If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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