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Heatstroke and Travel
Summer has arrived! You can imagine yourself sitting in a lounge chair, watching the waves, and sipping a cool drink.

While you are kicking back and enjoying the hot weather, you might want to give a few thoughts to your four-footed friends. They really don't see what all the fuss is about. As far as your pets are concerned, summer time is hot weather, hot cars, and long, anxious stays in kennels while you are away on vacation.

So, can you balance the joys of summer with the guilt of pet ownership? Of course you can! All it takes is a little forethought, some attention to details, and knowledge of your pet's needs.

Let's start with the hot weather. The warm sun may feel great to you, but dogs are not designed to tolerate the heat. Dogs do not sweat; they only cool off by panting. As soon as the outside temperature reaches the dog's internal temperature of about 99 degrees, panting no longer works to cool the animal. So, dogs rapidly overheat on summer days. Overheated pets start to look uncomfortable and drool. If not cooled down, heat stroke may occur. At this point, the dog is so overheated that organ failure and even death can occur.

You can prevent heat stroke by making sure your pet stays cool. Provide shelter from the sun and hot weather. Keep pets indoors, in the air conditioning. Leave your pet at home when you decide to spend the day at the beach unless you can bring shade and plenty of fresh water. Avoid leaving a pet under a tree. The tree's shade will rapidly disappear as the sun moves across the sky. And never leave your pet in a parked car. Even a car parked in the shade with partially opened windows can become a furnace in a matter of minutes. The interior can rapidly heat up to 40 degrees above the outside temperature. On an 80-degree day, the inside of your car can reach 120 degrees within minutes. No pet can survive that heat.

Dogs should have access to cold, fresh water at all times. A dog on a walk or a hike should be rested and offered water every 15 minutes. Dogs will literally run with you until they drop from heatstroke. They do not have the common sense to stop when you are moving, even if they are hot, so you must monitor the animals and stop as needed. This is also true for boisterous dogs playing with their owners and friends. Make sure you limit the dog's play during the hottest times of day. Watch your pet for signs of fatigue and overheating to prevent heatstroke. Do not allow your children to play in the heat of the day with the dog without adult supervision. Children may not be able to tell when the dog is overheating.

Heatstroke is easier to prevent than treat. If you see your dog drooling, panting excessively, or acting worried, fatigued, or wobbly, he may be overheating. As the pet gets hotter, signs of impending heatstroke may occur. These include a rapid heart rate, nose, legs, and ears that are hot to the touch, diarrhea, and a swollen tongue. If your pet shows any signs of overheating, immediately stop all exertion, offer cool water, and find a cool place to rest. If not treated immediately, an animal that is overheating can suffer from heatstroke. A pet with heatstroke can lapse into a coma and die.

Heatstroke must be treated immediately. It is a dire emergency. Stop whatever you are doing and move the animal to a cool, shaded place. Offer tiny amounts of cold water if the animal is conscious and can swallow. Do not try to force the dog to drink and do not try to give water to an unconscious pet. Cover the dog's body with cool water and use ice packs around the body and head. Wrap the ice or ice packs in towels so that they are not directly against the animal's body. Placing ice directly against an overheated dog can confuse the dog's internal thermostat and may actually delay cooling.

Once the initial treatment is completed, the dog must be taken immediately to a veterinary hospital. Emergency veterinary care is necessary for recovery. Keeping the dog cool, well rested, and with access to water can prevent the need for this type of treatment.

So, the next time you decide to picnic all day and bring the dog with, do not just tie him to a picnic table and leave him there. Make sure the dog has shade, cold water, a chance to exercise, proper food, and plenty of time with you. Meeting the dog's needs keeps the dog healthy and happy. If you do this, both of you will enjoy summer activities.

Whether you are heading to the beach for the week or vacationing in the mountains, you cannot leave home without making arrangements for your pets. Bringing them with you is an option, but only works when you are willing to put the pets' health needs ahead of your need for fun. Being crated in a hotel room for hours on end is not your pet's idea of vacation. And you cannot leave any pets in a parked car. So, before you commit to bringing a pet with you, decide how you will travel and what will happen when you arrive. Is there room in the car or on the plane for the pet? Can you bring your cat into the passenger cabin or must she go in the non-air conditioned baggage compartment of the plane? Does the dog travel with ease or is motion sickness a perpetual problem? Will there be time to play with and walk the dog? Can the pet come with you into your vacation home? You must answer these and many more questions before deciding that it is wise to travel with your pet.

If you just can't leave home without your four-legged companion, make sure that your pet will be welcome on all stops of the journey. Purchase a book that lists hotels and motels that allow pets in the areas that you will travel through. Purchase pet tags that list phone numbers where you can be reached while on vacation, not your home phone. Make sure that all vaccinations and health certificates are up-to-date and map out a pet friendly vacation. If you are traveling by plane, call the airline directly to make travel arrangements and find out exactly which documents you will need to bring. If you are traveling overseas, call the consulate of the country of destination to find out which medical records are needed and when health examinations need to be done. Then pack your pet its own travel bag, complete with food, water (pets will not necessarily drink water from different areas), medications, health certificates, favorite toys, and leashes.

If you are overwhelmed with the idea of traveling with pets, make arrangements in advance for home care. Most pets are better off left at home for short trips. They find vacation travel disorienting and stressful and are often content to be left in their own houses.

Pet sitters are often a great choice for home pet care. Pet sitters will come to your home to take care of the pets, bring in the mail, water the plants, and check the house on a daily basis. Pet sitters work well for cats and older dogs. They allow the pets to stay in their stable, safe environment and still be walked, fed, and interact with humans each day. Many sitters will come two or more time per day to each house. When hiring a pet sitter, ask for references, make sure the company is licensed, bonded, and insured, meet the employees, and watch them interact with your pets. It is a good idea to have the pet sitter make a few visits while you are still in town so that everyone can make sure they are happy with the situation.

Other pets do better in a kennel. Choose a kennel far in advance of vacation time. Visit the kennel and ask for a tour. Do not leave pets at any boarding facility that refuses to allow you to see the runs. You must see the cages or runs and know where your pet will stay before agreeing to the arrangement. Trust your instincts and your nose when examining the facility. It should look and smell clean. There should be water in every cage and run. There should not be feces sitting in runs with dogs; it should be picked up during the day. Dog and cats should be in separate rooms or facilities. Ideally, dogs should have access to outdoor exercise yards, indoor-outdoor runs, or be walked during the day. It is a good idea to leave the dog for a short stay before you make reservations for the vacation trip. This will allow you to make sure that the staff and the dog get along, that the dog can tolerate boarding, and that you are satisfied with the experience. It is better to find out before your trip that the dog gets sick while boarding than after you get back!

There is a lot to do to make sure that your pets are safe, secure, and reasonably happy while you are away. By planning weeks to months in advance, and paying attention to details, you can make sure that all arrangements are correctly made. It does take some work, but is well worth it. This way, you really can enjoy your vacation.
 
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