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Originally published Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 1:38 PM

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Chillin' with Fido: How to keep pets cool on hot days

Help dogs, cats and other pets stay safe on hot days with tips from a veterinarian.

McClatchy Newspapers

The heat of summer brings with it discomfort and even danger to both humans and pets. However, with a few preparations and a little common sense, you and your pet can bear and survive the heat.

It is important to remember that some pets may have a harder time dealing with the heat and humidity. So, if your pet fits into one of the following categories be sure to monitor that pet carefully.

• Dogs with short muzzles (brachycephalic breeds), such as pugs, Boston terriers and bulldogs, do not handle high temperatures at all and should be housed inside.

• Obese pets can also have difficulty with the heat. Of course, the very young pets under 6 months of age and the geriatric pets are also considered to be at higher risk for heat related problems.

• If you have a pet that has a chronic illness or is on medication, you may want to use caution as well.

Here are the basics for keeping pets safe on hot days.

Water: For outdoor pets, it is critical to provide a few essentials. Obviously, a daily fresh supply of water in large amounts is one of the top priorities. The water needs to be checked daily for both quality and quantity. Pets, just like us, enjoy clean and cool water. For owners of large dogs or for those of you with multiple pets, you may find that a large bucket may do a better job of providing a sufficient quantity of water throughout the day instead of a couple of bowls. Remember to make sure that your pet cannot tip over the water containers and place them in a shaded or covered area in the yard. Another fun way to provide cool water and some summer fun for your pets is with the use of sprinklers or with a small baby pool.

Shade: Another summer essential, which cannot be stressed enough, is adequate shade and shelter from the hot sun. If you leave your pet outside, they must have plenty of shaded areas to relax in at all hours of the day, not just for certain hours.

Grooming: Summertime grooming is also another ritual for many pets both indoor and outdoor. By keeping your pet well groomed and bathed, you will help to greatly reduce the incidence of skin problems. It is rarely, if ever, recommended to shave your pet down to the skin. That delicate skin is extremely susceptible to severe sunburn and other skin problems. If you have concerns about grooming or with the pet's coat and skin, consult with your veterinarian and groomer.

Stress: Remember to check on your outdoor pets periodically throughout the day to ensure that they are handling the high heat and humidity well. Observe their activity and feeding habits, which can normally be somewhat reduced, but neither one should be extremely depressed. It is of course advisable to make indoor accommodations if the heat and humidity become too much for any pet. Any signs of heat stress or heat stroke require immediate veterinary attention.

Exercise: For dog owners, like myself, who enjoy their daily run/walk with their companion, it is essential not to overdo it when the temperature and humidity reach suffocating levels. It is advisable to exercise your dog in the early morning or late evening hours. Remember, that sidewalks, roadways and beach sand can be blistering hot and can burn the pads on your dog's feet. So, always check the surface that you and your dog will be exercising on to prevent serious injury.

Autos: I must reiterate the point of not leaving your pet inside any vehicle even for one minute during any time of the day. This includes a vehicle with the windows left open or parked in the shade. Your vehicle can become an oven with a temperature of well over 120 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes, so, never do it, ever.

Now that you have a few helpful suggestions for keeping your pet cool on hot days, you can ensure that your pet will have a safe summertime.

Dr. Tracy Acosta is a veterinarian at Biloxi Animal Hospital.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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