Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Traveling with your pet

Summer is here and travel season is upon us.  Having your pet accompany you on vacation may seem like a great idea to you, but be sure to consider your pet’s personality, too.  Some pets can be distressed traveling and may be much happier staying home or at a kennel.  If travel is right for you and your pet, before you go, update all vaccinations and take all necessary health papers with you.  Know where to find a local veterinarian at your destination in case of emergency.  Be sure to bring plenty of food and water, bowls and leashes and pack a small Pet First Aid Kit for your trip.  Make sure your pet has identification in case you get separated in a strange place (collars, tags, microchip, identification on the kennel/carrier).  Harnesses are a better choice than collars when traveling. Many pets will slip out of their collars when they are scared.  The harnesses are more secure.

Many pets are used to car rides and will have no trouble adjusting to a longer car ride.  For some, travel is stressful.  Proper preparation is the key to a successful trip. If your pet is not regularly crated, start getting them used to their travel kennel well before your departure.  (Pets should be securely confined for the safety of all human and animal passengers.  A wide variety of pet safety belt harnesses and kennels/carriers are available.  The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around freely). Start feeding meals in the kennel so that there are positive associations.  If your pet is not used to car travel, start by taking them for short, happy trips and then slowly working up to longer drives. Make the association with the car ride rewarding by giving a treats or special toys.
Fasting for 6 hours before travel can help minimize vomiting associated motion-sickness. Other signs of motion sickness include restlessness, heavy panting and salivation/drooling.  Many pets take medication to prevent motion sickness and travel anxiety.  If your dog or cat is distressed about travel, ask your veterinarian what the best options are for your family.

Never leave your pet alone in a car. The temperature can quickly rise to a dangerous level, causing heat stroke, even on a cool day. Leaving a window partially open is not an alternative. Have someone stay in the car with your pet, or see if it’s possible to take them into wherever you’re going.  You’d be surprised at the numbers of retail locations that allow pets inside.

If you have to leave your pet unattended in a hotel room, make sure that there is no opportunity for escape. Leave your pet confined in its carrier. Use the "Do Not Disturb" sign and ask hotel personnel to wait until you return before entering your room.

If you are traveling by air, it’s important to contact your airline well in advance of your travel in order to find out what the specific regulations are. Federal guidelines require pets to be at least 8 weeks old, be current on rabies vaccination, and have a health certificate obtained within 10 days of travel. Health certificates are issued by your veterinarian after a complete physical exam.  

It is best to fly with your pet in the cabin if they are small enough to fit under the seat.  Avoid flying your pet as checked cargo when temperatures on the ground are likely to be below 40ºF or above 80ºF. Some airlines will not baggage check pets in the summer months because of potentially dangerous hot conditions in the cargo holds and on the tarmac.  Always take direct flights to avoid connections and layovers. Use airlines that hand carry your pet carrier to and from the aircraft instead of being placed on a conveyor belt. Avoid the busiest travel times so airline personnel will have extra time to handle your pet.

With some planning and special attention, travel with your pet can be a wonderful experience for all!

article written by:
Sheila Newenham, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Heat Stroke: How to Safely Enjoy the Sun with Your Pets

The summer heat is officially here!

While that means lots of fun activities outdoors, be sure to be extra careful when including your canine companions. Dogs can quickly suffer from “heat stroke” or extremely high body temperatures. A dog’s normal temperature is between 99-103 degrees; heat stroke occurs when body temperatures are at or above 106 degrees. When the dog overheats, the blood vessels dilate in attempt to cool the body and the heart beats faster. This leads to low blood pressure, shock, and then death of organ tissues. Treatment can be costly and may not be effective, depending on extent of damage. In one study, 50% of dogs with heat stroke did not survive despite treatment. We want to avoid this becoming an issue for your pet, so below are some tips on how to enjoy the heat safely!

  1. Don’t leave your pet outside during the day for extended periods of times. It is especially important that when your pet is outside that they have access to water and shade. Remember, dogs do not have the same type of sweat glands that we do, so they can only pant so much to compensate for the heat
  2. Don’t leave your pet confined in the sun. Many heatstroke deaths occur due to dogs being left in hot cars. It can get incredibly hot inside a car on a sunny day very quickly. It is best to leave your dog at home in the AC if you will be running errands that require you to leave them in the car.
  3. Be extra cautious if your animal is a breed at increased risk of heat stroke. Some breeds have a harder time panting properly to compensate for the heat. These breeds have short snouts (“brachycephalic”) and include shih tzus, bull dogs, pugs, and boxers.
  4. Exercise with caution! Even if your dog is usually a great running mate, try to limit exercise to cooler times of the day. Dawn and dusk are good times to consider a walk or run in the summer. The other perk is that the concrete or asphalt is not as hot at these times- remember that dogs can burn their pads when the ground is too hot!
  5. Dogs can get heatstroke even when swimming or playing on the beach. It’s great if your pet enjoys playing in the water, just be sure to limit their play time and give them a break in the shade or AC!
  6. Consider the age and health of your pet. Very young pets and senior pets may not be able to tolerate the heat as well as healthy adult dogs might. Dogs with heart or lung disease will have a harder time in the heat as well. 

If you think your pet might have heat stroke, do not delay in contacting your vet! Your vet will be your best resource for helping you decide appropriate next steps if your dog is suffering from heat stroke.  Some signs that may indicate your pet is suffering from heat stroke include: 

  • Heavy/ excessive panting
  • Lethargy
  • Unresponsive
  • Dark red gums
  • Rapid heart beat

If you have specific questions on your pets and their exposure to heat this summer, please contact your vet. We hope you have a happy and safe summer with your pets!

If you have specific questions on your pets and their exposure to heat this summer, please contact your vet. We hope you have a happy and safe summer with your pets!

Bruchim Y, Klement E, Saragusty J, et al: Heat stroke in dogs: A retrospective study of 54 cases (1999-2004) and analysis of risk factors for death. J Vet Intern Med 2006 Vol 20 (1) pp. 38-46.

article written by:
Erin Walsh, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect