Rising temperatures affect pets, decrease animal appetites


The summer heat has captured headlines all over the nation; the triple-digit temperatures have caused concerns for farming, droughts and even heat poisoning. Many people have overlooked one population, however: pets.
Dogs are especially at risk, said Susan Nelson, veterinarian and associate professor at K-State’s Veterinary Health Center, because they tend to spend more time outdoors than other pets. The heat has several peculiar effects on dogs; besides an increase in panting, heat-induced effects include a decrease in energy and a lack of appetite.
Because animals like dogs, cats and rabbits have no sweat glands, pet owners should take certain precautions to keep them cool. However, as Cheyanne Sullivan, dog owner and senior in management said, “Dogs are easier to keep cool than other animals.”
Sullivan noticed that her dog – a black Lab named Tehya – eats significantly less in the summer. During the winter, Sullivan sometimes feeds her dog a full bowl twice a day, but during the summer, Tehya barely eats half a bowl. Sullivan also said she noticed her dog has less energy during the summer; Tehya spends less time outside and her runs are shorter.
Luckily, dogs have ways of letting their owners know they need to get out of the sun. Nelson said pet owners need to “be cognizant of their conditions … like reluctance of moving, tongue hanging out, ropy tongue … stop them and get them in the shade.”
Two simple methods help prevent pets from overheating, Nelson said: keep them inside or in the shade as much as possible to prevent excessive heat exposure, and make sure to keep plenty of water easily accessible to them.
“Animals in captivity cannot fend for themselves,” said Victoria Bryan, pet groomer and aspiring veterinarian. “It’s our responsibility to make sure they get what they need.”
Dogs tend to overheat while playing or exercising, Nelson said, but leaving a dog in a hot car puts the animal at especially high risk. A common mistake pet owners make is to leave the windows cracked, expecting that the dog will be fine, Nelson said, but with temperatures like these, it is best to leave the dog at home. Dogs can overheat in a hot car within a few minutes, even with the window down.
“People don’t have any business owning an animal if they do that,” Bryan said.
Dogs do not cool as well as humans do; they rely on cool air, cool surfaces and panting. To be safe, leave pets at home while going out in high temperatures and exercise pets during early morning hours or late in the evening.
Nelson said one cooling method pet owners should avoid is giving their animals an ice bath, which will restrict their blood vessels; if your pet is truly in an emergency, take it to the vet. Always remember to check water frequently, make sure there is plenty of shade, and change food twice a day.
Several important differences make dogs more vulnerable to heat stroke than cats, Nelson said.
“Dogs are more prone to go on walks,” Nelson said. “Cats deal with heat better; they tend to find shade and lie around … they are more active during the night.”
Rabbits have their own needs and their own methods of cooling. For example, rabbits burrow during the summer in their natural habitat to keep cool, so as pets, they might need ice packs in their cages or be put in a cool spot. They also pant differently from dogs, taking raspy breaths that might make it harder for pet owners new to rabbits to recognize overheating. Additionally, their ears help them maintain a lower body temperature; blood cools as it circulates through their large, flat ears, close to the surface of the skin, and the cooler blood circulates through the rest of the body.