Every day pets are exposed to various temperature levels from heat to cold, and while it is easy to forget, you really need to consider just how much your pets can be affected in extreme conditions. That’s where we come into play.
We are Pause4Paws, the voice for pets who cannot speak up for themselves. Pause4Paws is a group of sophomore Community Problem Solvers from Flagler Palm Coast High School, Florida. Community Problem Solvers (CmPS), is one of the four competitive components of Future Problem Solving Program, International (FPSPI). FPSPI is meant to stimulate critical and creative thinking skills, encourage students to develop a vision for the future, and to prepare students for leadership skills. In CmPS specifically, we identify real problems in the community, then create and implement real solutions. We all share a strong passion for pets. As Pause4Paws, our mission is to increase familiarity of the dangers associated with climate for household animals so that a healthy lifestyle for them isn’t compromised.
Because we live in Florida, our group knows all too well about how hot it can get. We are called the Sunshine State for a reason—our sunny weather and high temperatures. Occasionally, the heat can be too much for us, and it’s just too hot to stay outside. This does not just apply to humans, but also to our furry friends.
Regardless of where you live and what your weather conditions may be like, a pet still has the possibility of overheating in a matter of minutes. When left in extreme heat, a pet’s body temperature can reach 109 degrees, to the point where it can no longer cool itself to accommodate the heat, a term called hyperthermia. A heat stroke commonly follows elevated body temperatures. Upon reaching these conditions, the pet’s health may begin to take a dramatic turn towards organ failure, damage to the pet’s brain, heart, liver, nervous system, and in extreme cases, death.
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By taking a few precautions before spending the day with your pet in the sun, you can decrease the likelihood of your pet from getting injured.
- According to Dr. Alexis Bogosian, one of our local veterinarians, it is best to avoid the sun during its strongest period, which is around 10 am to 3 pm. Always check the ground before you walk your pet on concrete or pavement. On an 85 degree day, the ground can reach a whopping 135 degrees, that is more than enough to cook an egg in minutes! Leaving your pet to walk on the hot floors can leave them with second degree burns. Try and hold your hand on the ground for at least five seconds. If it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for your pet’s paws!
- Pets with short, thin and/or light colored hair should be kept away from direct sunlight as they are more susceptible to damaging UV rays. According to Dr. Terri Rosado, DVM or veterinary physician, from Flagler Integrative Veterinary, pets mainly get skin damage where there is little to no hair, such as their belly or noses.
- There are pet-safe sunblocks available for pets who enjoy sunbathing or are at potential risk of sun damage. Dr. Jacklyn Mantz from Flagler Animal Hospital advises that when choosing sunblock for your pet, make sure that it is fragrance free and has UVA and UVB (SPF 15-30 in humans). Also, when selecting a sunscreen make sure it is specifically for dogs—pets may lick off the sunscreen which can cause toxicity issues.
- When going on a trip with your dog, never leave them in your car for any periods of time. All it takes is ten minutes on a ninety-degree day for a car to heat up to 109 degrees. Even with the windows down, a car can still potentially reach up to 160 degrees. Just this year, more than twelve police dogs have died after being left in a hot car for an extended amount of time, which resulted in a felony.
- Most importantly, always make sure that your pet has plenty of water throughout the day!
With winter approaching quickly, we can’t forget our friends in states that aren’t as sunny as Florida! While it may be enjoyable to play with your pet in the snow and cold, you need to know what actions to take to keep your pets warm.
- Stacey Arnold, a veterinary technician from Pet Street Veterinary Care Center, states that depending on the breed of the dog, tolerance for the cold will vary. You should be aware of their extent and adjust accordingly. Check their paws frequently for any injury or damage, such as cracked paw pads or bleeding. Factors, such as your pet’s coat, their body fat storage, activity levels and health all affect their capability of being in the cold for long periods of time. While your pet’s average temperature stays at around 100-102 degrees, a pet’s temperature, with hypothermia, can drop around ten degrees. Hypothermia can cause low pulse, unconsciousness, frostbite, muscle stiffness, lethargy, comas, organ failure, and in some cases, death.
- Before it gets too cold, try and take your pet to the veterinary clinic for a checkup. Some conditions, like arthritis, can worsen as the weather gets colder. Young, old and dogs with certain medical problems will have a harder time regulating their own body temperature.
- Like in the warmer season, never leave your pet outside for long periods of time. Make sure that your pet is in a safe environment before going to bed. They need to be comfortable and kept warm throughout the night. If necessary, there are accessories available for your pet to wear to stay comfortable throughout the winter season. Items such as boots and warm clothing are available at your local pet store.
- A really great tip during the cool season is to check the bottom of your pet’s paws for ice, rocks, salt, and antifreeze. If you happen to detect any, immediately use a cloth dampened with warm water to remove the substances. These have a tendency to get stuck between the pet’s paws. The ice has the potential to accumulate between the pet's toes, causing extreme pain and discomfort. The first signs to look out for is your dog will be in a disoriented and groggy state, which the symptoms can begin to be recognizable after 30 minutes. If left untreated, this will then transition into the second phase of antifreeze poisoning; vomiting, oral and gastric ulcers, kidney failure, or death.
- If you think your dog is suffering from hypothermia, take them to a veterinary clinic or hospital as soon as possible!
As you can see, pets are at risk of danger during the hot and cold seasons. Considering that pets are a part of your family, you need to make sure they stay as happy and healthy as possible. It’s up to you as an individual to take a stand for your pets. After all, they rely on you heavily. You feed them, wash them, love them, and care for them. It’s all up to you! They deserve the best care available to them, just like Pause4Paws’ slogan says, “Best friends need best care.”