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Keep pets safe in the summer with tips from the American Red Cross

August 22, 2012
Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Summer's hot and humid weather can pose a serious danger to pets. The American Red Cross has helpful steps to keep the family pets safe and healthy during the sweltering heat.

Pet owners should not leave their animal in the car, even for a few minutes, when the hot weather arrives. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. Pet owners are urged to refrain from leaving animals in the car, even with the windows cracked open.

Heat stroke is a common problem for pets in the warmer weather. Dogs with short noses or snouts, like the boxer or bulldog, are prone to heat stroke. This is also true for any obese pet, a pet with an extremely thick fur coat or any pet with upper respiratory problems such as laryngeal paralysis or collapsing trachea.

Some signs a pet may be developing heat stroke include heavy panting and being unable to calm down, even when lying down. Their gum color may be brick red, their pulse rate may be fast or they may not be able to get up. Anyone who suspects their pet has heat stroke should take their temperature rectally. If the temperature is above 105 degrees, cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when the temperature reaches 103 degrees. Bring the pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.

Pet owners also need to be aware animals may try to get out a window or door, which are more likely to be open as the weather warms. And some plants in gardens can be hazardous to animals. For instance, many lilies are very poisonous to cats. Visit the ASPCA Poison Control web site to find out which plants and flowers are poisonous to animals.

A pet is part of the family, and just like any other family member, pets deserve to be cared for and protected. Follow these important steps to help keep pets at their best:

Give pets plenty of exercise. Regular exercise will help pets feel better and live longer;

Make sure pets have plenty of fresh, cool water;

Get to know a veterinarian and make sure pets have yearly checkups;

Make sure pets are up to date on vaccines, especially rabies;

Get pets spayed or neutered;

Keep dogs on leashes outside - another animal may be too much temptation; and

Know how to perform CPR and provide basic first aid until veterinary care is available.

Animals can't say when they aren't feeling well. Many hide signs of illness until a problem is very advanced. Knowing what is normal for pets and being able to recognize changes early can make a huge difference in treatment success. The first step is to know what is normal for a pet - their gum color, heart or pulse rate, body temperature and breathing rate - so it can be recognized when something is wrong.

Additional tips are located on the American Red Cross' Pets and Disaster Safety Checklist. Pet First Aid courses are offered at many Red Cross chapters throughout the country. The Red Cross has also developed Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid, comprehensive guides with DVDs to help keep pets healthy and safe. From basic responsibilities, like spaying or neutering and giving medications, to performing CPR and preparing for disasters, these guides offer information pet owners can trust. For more information on pet safety, visit



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