Dr. JACOB CHURCH: Hot weather woes

It's that time of year again: days at the beach or river, afternoons in the park, fun in the backyard, time to revel in the warmth of the sun.

It's also the time of year when heat-related illnesses become a common occurrence. Heat stroke, heat exhaustion and dehydration are serious but preventable illnesses in both people and pets.

Heat-related illnesses are serious and potentially life threatening problems that are routinely observed during the hot months of the year.

While excessive exposure to high temperatures is an obvious cause, overexertion and extended play and/or exercise at even moderate temperatures coupled with inappropriate hydration practices can ultimately result in the same outcome. Proper precautions and planning can help reduce or eliminate the chance of illness.

In order to avoid heat-related illnesses, two simple tasks must be observed. First, proper rest and cool-down intervals are needed to allow the body time to return to a more thermo-friendly temperature and breaks the cycle of exercise generated body heat.

Periods of rest, lasting 10 to 15 minutes, should follow every 30 minutes of exercise or play. Be sure to offer ample shade or shelter for any and all pets that stay outside on a regular basis. Second, proper hydration should be maintained through the consumption of water or pet friendly electrolyte solutions.

General recommendations on the amount of fluids to consume can either be found on the product packaging or made by your pet's doctor. Consumption of fluids should be observed and spread out during the rest period. Multiple fluid receptacles should be made available to outdoor pets at all times and their contents should be replenished on a regular basis. If these simple but important acts are practiced, one should be able to circumvent heat-related illnesses.

In the event that one's pet falls victim to heat-related illness, some general clinical signs may be observed. Signs may include weakness, rapid respiration/panting, nausea/vomiting, collapse and/or loss of consciousness.

If heat-related illness is suspected, immediately place the pet in a cool place and gently reduce the body temperature by running cool, not cold, water over the back, head and paws of the pet.

One should also contact their pet's doctor for further instruction. While all animals are susceptible to heat-related illnesses, those with short or stubby noses (bulldogs, Lhasas, pugs, etc.) are particularly prone to these problems.

In order to assure everyone, both two- and four-legged, a happy and enjoyable summer, proper precautions should be taken to avoid heat-related illnesses. By allowing proper and repeated rest periods and appropriate hydration practices, these disasters may be prevented. Please allow your pet's doctor to be an integral part of maintaining your pet's health this summer.