Columns and Letters

Column: What special precautions should we be taking regarding our pets?

- by Bonny H.J. MacIsaac

    Quite a bit to bring to your attention this week. First, the warmer weather has had me thinking about what special precautions should we be taking regarding our pets? Mine are in and out, in and out – if you are a pet owner, you know how it goes.
    As temperatures soar, pets become vulnerable to heat stress. Puppies, kittens, geriatric dogs and cats tend to be more susceptible. Others at risk include short-nosed breeds, Persian cats, overweight pets and pets with cardiac or respiratory disorders.
    Maintaining a comfortable environment for our pets is important. All pets should have easy access to lots of fresh water. On days of extreme heat, put a few ice cubes in the water bowl. Pets who are left outside should have plenty of shade and cool water.

    If you notice your pet isn't eating well, there is no need to worry unless it displays other signs of illness. Most pets tend to eat less during extremely hot weather.
    Never leave your pet confined in a car or any other poorly ventilated enclosure, it can be fatal. One study reports that when the outside temperature is 25oC (78oF), a closed car will reach (32oC) 90oF in five minutes, and (43oC) 110oF in 25 minutes.
    Avoid excessive exercise of dogs during hot days or warm, humid nights. The best time to exercise dogs is either early in the morning before sunrise or late in the evening after the sun goes down.
    Heat stroke is the most common kind of heat stress. It develops rapidly and is often associated with exposure to high temperatures, humidity, and poor ventilation. Symptoms include panting, a staring or anxious expression, failure to respond to commands, warm, dry skin, extremely high temperature, dehydration, rapid heartbeat, and collapse.
    To treat heatstroke, immerse the pet in cool water or spray it with a garden hose to help lower its body temperature. If water is not available, apply ice packs to the head and neck and move it to a cool place at once. A gentle breeze from a fan may also be used. With any form of heat stress, prompt veterinary attention is important to deal with potential complications.
    While heat is a concern to pet owners, there are other threats to our pets we often don't think about. Many garden and houseplants may cause irritation, illness, or death if ingested by pets. Amaryllis, daffodil, tulip and iris bulbs, azalea, lily of the valley, yew, dieffenbachia, philodendron and caladium are a few of the plants toxic to pets. Plan your garden and arrange your houseplants to be off limits to pets.
    Hot pavement, sticky tar, or gravel may cause footpad problems. To remove tar from footpads, rub them with petroleum jelly and then gently wash with mild soap and water and rinse thoroughly. Never use kerosene or turpentine to remove tar. These chemicals irritate the skin and can be toxic to your pet.
    Many of the insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers we use to keep our lawns and gardens beautiful may be harmful or even toxic to a pet. Dogs and cats pick up residue on their paws after running over the treated area and become ill after licking it off their paws. If a pet tends to eat grass, freshly sprayed lawns present an additional threat.
    Summer means mosquitoes and the danger of heartworm disease. A trip to your veterinarian is in order to have your dog checked for heartworm as well as other internal parasites and to begin a heartworm prevention program. Remember that cats can also become infected, but the incidence is lower. If you live in an area with a heavy mosquito infestation, ask your veterinarian about heartworm protection for your cat.
    The problem of fleas and ticks intensifies during summer months. Regular grooming not only helps control summertime shedding, but also helps in flea and tick control. Examine your pet’s haircoat carefully during each grooming session for evidence of external parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend flea control products for your pet and its environment. Just be certain that any product you use for your cat is labeled safe for cats.
    Special thanks to the Purina Company for this valuable information. Check out their website for much more great advice concerning your cat or dog. Log onto: If you have a printer, they also have some printable money saving coupons for their products on their website.
    Animals and Fireworks: Many pets, especially dogs get stressed when fireworks are being set off in their neighborhood. Experts say, it is never a good idea to take your dog to a fireworks display. Also, not a good idea to tie your dog outside or leave them unattended in a car while fireworks are being let off close by. Indoors are the best place for them, curtains drawn if possible and a radio or tv on to help muffle some of the noise. It need not be too loud.
    Keep calm, although it’s difficult when it’s obvious your pet is stressed, try not to let your dog know you are worried as it may make the problem worse. The experts say to, act normally and give lots of praise for calm behaviour. It’s okay to cuddle and stroke your pet if it helps them relax, but if they prefer to hide under your bed, then let them do this instead.
    Cooler tips: With summer's heat we have to be so careful with our food. Whether you are having a family gathering, a day at the beach, a picnic cooler is likely to be very helpful. If you are going on a long trip, it's best to bring one cooler for beverages/drinks and a separate cooler for food. The reason is because beverage coolers are opened frequently, allowing cold air to escape. Coolers with food will stay colder longer because it will be opened less frequently. Depending on the length of your trip/day out, a separate cooler with extra ice will help you to replenish ice in food and beverage coolers.
– Pre-chill beverages before placing them in the cooler. Pre-cooling preserves ice, so you will need less ice to cool drinks down. Since cold air travels down, place beverages in the cooler first and ice last. If possible, try to keep your cooler out of the sun/ out of a hot car. Try finding a shaded area to keep your cooler.
– To keep food cold, ice-packs/ice blocks should be placed on the bottom of the cooler. Several ice packs are best. Or you can use a block of ice. This will keep food cold for a longer period.
– Wash all perishable foods, such as fruits and vegetables before you leave home. Pack all foods in air tight bags or sealed plastic containers, this helps prevent cross contamination and a mess.
– A cooler is not meant to re-chill food that has remained at a temperature of 40oF or above for one hour or more. Only food that has remained at safe temperatures should be placed back into the cooler. To be safe, throw out any food you are unsure of (especially anything with mayo, eggs, etc.)
– A full cooler will maintain safer temperatures longer than a half empty cooler.
– Thaw items in the refrigerator or cooler, do not thaw meat at room temperature or in the sun.
– Keep perishable foods in cooler until just before serving.
    Ice packs are available in many different sizes and styles. For the softer coolers, I advise that you do not put loose ice in the food coolers. The reason for this is simple, the sharp edges of the ice can rip the lining and ice melts faster and makes the cooler heavy and misshapen. In order to prolong usage of your cooler, it must be taken care of. Enjoy!



























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