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Keep your dogs safe during excessive heat and humidity

(Photo by Chad Merda)

With excessive heat and humidity plaguing our region this week, the Forest Preserve District is reminding dog owners to take precautions so their pets don’t overheat while walking on a trail or playing at a dog park.

High humidity level can seriously aggravate the dangerous weather conditions, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

"It's important to remember that it's not just the ambient temperature, but also the humidity that can affect your pet," says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly."

Also, Fetch by WebMD advises dog owners to never leave their pets in a hot car. 

"No, not even if you think you’ll only be a few minutes," the site advises. "Even when it isn’t that hot outside, the temp can soar inside a closed car. On an 85-degree day, it can reach 102 F within 10 minutes. And that's with a window cracked. After 30 minutes, it could be up to 120. Leave your dog at home, or go places where they can come with you."

Here are some additional Humane Society tips to make sure your dog stays cool outdoors this summer, especially during a heat wave:

Limit exercise on hot days

Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.

Provide ample shade and water

Any time your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Keep your pet from overheating indoors or out with a cooling body wrap, vest or mat.

Watch for signs of heatstroke

Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.

Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs—like boxers, pugs, shih tzus and other dogs and cats with short muzzles — will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke

Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take them directly to a veterinarian.

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