Animals need special attention during hot spell
The dog days of summer have arrived in Wadena and local veterinarians encouraged pet owners and farmers to protect their animals from the sweltering summer sun. Elderly lap dogs, horses working in the sun and cattle at home in their stalls can all suffer in the heat.
Bridget King, veterinarian at Homestead Veterinary Clinic, said a pet's living environment, breed and age can all affect their vulnerability to hot weather. She said outdoor dogs such a Malemutes and Siberian Huskies are vulnerable to the heat due to their thick, heavy coats and exposure to the sun.
King does not typically recommend shaving outdoor dogs, however. She said if a dog's skin is not accustomed to sun exposure it can burn. King said sunscreen is not always advisable because dogs tend to lick it off their skin, which can cause more problems. She said she sometimes recommends shaving the stomach of an outdoor dog so the animal has more skin to expose to cool earth after digging up the ground to lie down.
King said dogs are made to live outdoors under the sun, and she said dog owners should consult their veterinarian about decisions regarding shaving and applying sunscreen to exposed skin such as a dog's nose.
She said short-nosed dogs such as pugs, Boston terriers and English bulldogs are also vulnerable in hot weather because their airways don't have much length to cool off the air when panting.
King said very young and very old dogs and cats are more affected by the heat than other dogs. Kittens and puppies have a naturally lower body temperature than mature animals and elderly animals are more likely to have health issues that can make them weak.
Warren Hartman, veterinarian at Southbrook Veterinary Hospital, said all farm animals are affected by hot temperatures. He said farmers in this area are usually aware of the problems associated with heat but they should ensure their animals have shade when they are outdoors, ample ventilation in barns and adequate water.
He said symptoms of overheating include increased and labored breathing and in severe cases prostration.
If farmers encounter an animal suffering from heat stroke, Hartman said they should cool the animal's body down as rapidly as possible. He recommended spraying large animals with a garden hose on their legs and head and anywhere there is good circulation. He said cooling the head is especially important in order to protect the brain.
"It takes some time to do," he said. "Especially with a massive animal. But the main thing to help the animal is to get them cooled down and a cold towel won't do it."
The upcoming Wadena County Fair is a temporary home to numerous farm animals--large and small. Fran Kueker, Ag Society president, said the fair installed large fans in the upper part of the cattle barn to help cool off the crowded animals.
"The more animals you have, the more heat gets generated," she said. "Just like shoving a bunch of people into a small area."
She said fair organizers bring more fans into the other buildings when necessary.
"We have really good air flow in all of the buildings," she said.
Kueker said animals owners supply their animals with water and some also provide electrolytes. She said the chickens suffer the most from the heat, but there isn't a lot the fair and owners can do besides provide water and air flow.
King said there are many precautions pet owners can take to ensure the health of their animals. She said animal owners should make sure their pets have plenty of cold water and access to cool places to lay. She recommended frequent changes of water in dog and cat water dishes. King said in very hot weather dog owners should put ice cubes in their dog's water dish to ensure the water is cold enough to cool the animal off, but cool water from the tap is sufficient for cats. She said large pieces of ice are best and advises owners to fill an empty margarine tub with water and freeze it to place in the dog's dish.
Pet owners should also bring water with when taking their dog for a walk, she said. King also recommended walking pets at cooler times of the day even if it requires a change of routine.
"Don't over-exert them," she said. "Take shorter walks and have breaks."
She also advises pet owners to beware of blue-green algae when taking their pet on a walk by a pond or to the lake. King said the algae will poison pets that drink water contaminated with its blossoms. She said the algae grows on still bodies of water and blooms more in hot weather.
A wading pool can also serve to cool animals down, but King recommended placing rubber slip guards such as the ones used in bath tubs to prevent the dog from slipping.
She doesn't recommend owners travel with their pets, but, if necessary, King said to make sure the animal receives plenty of water and rest stops along the trip. She said owners can freeze a bottle of water so a dog has something cool to lay next to and cold water to drink as the ice melts.
Hartman said pets should never be left in the car during hot weather.
"Even on a very mild day if the car is shut up ... it can be disastrous," he said about the dangers of overheating.