Put coats away for summer season

Published 4:17 pm Monday, March 7, 2011

By Dr. Fred Self / Veterinarian

At this point in the year, a lot of us are hiding our winter gear in the back of the closet and taking out our shorts and sandals.

In fact, our recent warm snap encouraged some of our neighbors to start exercising outside the gym again.

By starting now, all the athletes in the county will gradually condition themselves to the season’s steadily increasing temperature. It is important to remember that our pets cannot do the things necessary to gradually condition themselves on their own. More often than we would like, the long-haired dogs and cats in this part of the country suffer from heat-related conditions. They can experience any range of conditions from over heating to heat stroke, leading to death.

The symptoms we see can include open-mouth breathing, exercise intolerance, refusal to respond when called, seizures, coma and sudden death. The condition can develop after dark, as well as during the day.

It is the heat level in the surrounding environment, not exposure to the sun, that is the problem.

There are several things we can do to prevent our pets from getting too hot. First, make sure any outside pets have access to fresh water. It should be placed where it can be easily reached. Second, provide plenty of shade throughout the entire day. Third, take long-haired dogs and cats to a groomer each summer and have their hair clipped to a shorter length.

Many of the owners we talk to about clipping their pets are against the idea. They worry about the pet’s appearance, or they believe the hair provides insulation in keeping the pet cool. We are all familiar with the important part insulation plays in our homes. It keeps the inside of the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Insulation works because we are able to heat and cool our homes. Our pets cannot produce cool on their own. They simply heat year round. Their insulation makes them hotter in the summer.

If there is any doubt in your mind, the next time we have a 75-degree day, put on your favorite coat and run around the yard a few times.

Remember, drink plenty of water, stay in the shade and put away your winter coats, and we will all have a great summer!

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic in Columbiana, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach the clinic at 669-7717.