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June 9th 06, 07:43 AM

Warm Weather Care

Mingled with the joys of summer are possible dangers to our pets. Being
aware of threats to their comfort and safety can make summertime living
easier for pets and pet owners alike.

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. If
dogs have been in fields or wooded areas, also check for weeds and
seeds. Sometimes seeds find their way into a dog''s ears, nostrils ,
mouth and paw pads and even internally. Prompt removal helps prevent

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.

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.

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.

Sometimes we worry that our dogs aren''t eating as well as usual.
Unless a dog displays other signs of illness, chances are it's doing
what many dogs do during hot weather eating less. Many cats also tend
to eat less during extremely hot weather.

Providing plenty of cool, fresh water will help keep your pet cool
throughout the summer. Put a few ice cubes in the water bowl during
periods of extreme heat.

If you have to ship a pet by air, schedule the flight during early
morning or evening. Peak travel periods when delays or stopovers may be
longer should be avoided if possible. At the end of the trip, your pet
should be picked up promptly.

Maintaining a comfortable environment for our pets is important. Pets
who are left outside should have plenty of shade and cool water.

Confinement in a car or any other poorly ventilated enclosure can be
fatal to a pet. One study reports that when the outside temperature is
78F, a closed car will reach 90F in five minutes, and 110F 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.

As temperatures soar, pets become more vulnerable to heat stress.
Puppies and kittens and geriatric dogs and cats tend to be more
susceptible. Others at risk include short-nosed breeds, like the
bulldog and the pug, and Persian cats; overweight pets; and pets with
cardiac or respiratory disorders.

Adult pets more susceptible to heat stress include those who recently
moved from cool to warmer climates, those or with cardiovascular or
respiratory disorders or with a history of heat stress.

Dogs who have recently received short haircuts may become sunburn
victims and are as susceptible to heat stress as dogs with their
natural haircoats. In fact, a dog''s haircoat has insulative
characteristics to help protect it from heat. Close clipping should be
avoided during hot weather.

Heatstroke 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.

A final thought
With your watchful protection, your pets can share the joys of summer
with you.