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Summer Health Tips
by Hillary Frank, DVM, DABVP (Avian)

Summer is a great time for pets, but it is also time for extra care. Make plans for heat, travel, parasites, extra activity, fireworks, and storms.

Heat is a common cause of summer illness for pets, especially here in Phoenix. Never leave your pet in a parked car, garage, or storage room for any period of time. On a warm day, the temperature can reach over 120 degrees F in a matter of minutes, even with the windows partially open. Death can occur in as little as 10 minutes. Rabbits and chinchillas are especially sensitive to temperatures above 80 degrees F. Exercising during the cooler part of the day is best.

The street and sidewalk can be hot for hours and can blister their paws. Many dogs will continue to happily run with their owner, showing no signs of tiring or illness, until collapsing with heatstroke. Dogs do not have an efficient method of handling heat stress because they don't sweat and can only reduce their body temperature by seeking cool places to lay, drinking cool water, and panting. Heat stroke is most common in the large breeds and in dogs with short noses.

Make sure your pet has access to shade and cool clean water every day. Be alert for signs of heat stress: rapid breathing, loud heavy panting, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, glazed eyes, or staggering. Quickly get your pet to a shady, ventilated area, sponge off with cool water, and take your pet to the nearest veterinarian immediately. Some pets initially appear to have recovered, but serious blood changes can continue to worsen. Dogs who suffer from heat stroke can develop serious delayed complications, including death, so a veterinarian should examine all pets with significant heat exposure.

Parasites are more active during the summer months, and these parasites are more than a nuisance to pets. They can pose serious health risks including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and other flea, tick and mosquito transmitted diseases. Several of these can transmit to humans. Check with your veterinarian for the product that most suits your environment and pet's needs.

Be cautious of over-the-counter products because some may be toxic and others are less effective and increase risk of disease transmission. Many products are called "gray-market" as they are not sold by authorized distributors and could be counterfeit products that do not work or are toxic. If problems occur with these products, the manufacturer will not warrantee them.

The July 4th holiday is another time to protect your pet this summer. The sound of fireworks may terrify your pet. Explosive noises may damage your pet?s hearing, or pets may be injured by fireworks. Summer monsoons can also frighten many pets or damage fences, allowing them to escape. Avoid problems by discussing with your veterinarian ways to protect and calm your pet. Be sure your pets have permanent identification, including a safe collar with current tags and a microchip. If your pet is lost, these will help in returning them home.

Travel also must be done with some preparation. Health certificates are needed to travel from one state to another, and must be signed by a veterinarian who has received special accreditation by the USDA. Vaccinations must be current, and some states require a permit number prior to entering the state with your pet. Not all hotels permit pets, so call ahead. Arrangements for home care or boarding should be made as early as possible to ensure they provide the care you would like. Traveling to higher altitudes also affects your pet, and dehydration is a common problem seen.

With a little extra effort, you and your pets can enjoy even the hottest summers in Phoenix. Make sure your pet is in tip-top shape and ready for the months ahead.

-Dr Hillary Frank


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