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June 2012

Summer Heat Got Your Pet Down?

Now that summer is officially here, there are additional needs when providing safe care for your pet. The heat, along with encounters from wildlife and insects, can stress your pets.

“Summer is a great time to spend outside with your pet, but it does pose additional health risks,” according to Kim Krause, DVM, of the Animal Medical and Surgical Clinic in Wisconsin Rapids.

To avoid common summertime accidents and injuries, prevention is the key.

Dr. Krause suggests constant access to water for your pet along with a shady area for your pet to play in. For a brachycephalic breed (characterized by short and wide skulls such as pugs and bulldogs), air conditioning is best.

Additional preparations before a day outside should include pet-specific sunscreen for pets with thin, short or missing fur and for those with light-colored noses. Dr. Krause recommends avoiding exercise during hot or humid weather as well as during the hottest times of the day.

Summer can also bring encounters with insects, parasites, and wildlife such as skunks, porcupines or snakes.

“Parasite control is very important,” Dr. Krause says. “Discuss with your veterinarian the best preventative measures to keep your pet healthy.”

As for other preventative care, Dr. Krause suggests to “keep your pet fit – overweight pets are at an increased risk [of heat stress].”

According to Dr. Krause, heat stress in pets occurs when the level of heat rises quickly and exceeds the body’s ability to release heat. This elevated body temperature causes injury to the body’s cells and thermal damage to tissues.

“[Heat stress] can be fatal,” Dr. Krause states. “Never leave a pet in a parked car – even for a few minutes with the windows partially open – fatal heat stroke can occur within minutes.”

Early signs of heat stress consist of uncontrollable panting, increased thirst and shade-seeking behavior. Weakness and diarrhea are severe symptoms along with collapsing, vomiting and seizing. For a pet in heat stress, Dr. Krause recommends wetting the pet down with cool (not cold) water, turning a fan on the pet, and seeking veterinary attention. When suspecting heat stroke, owners should immediately contact their veterinarian.

Since dogs do not sweat like humans, the mortality rate is higher when treatment of heat stroke is delayed, explains Dr. Krause. This is because dogs mainly release heat by panting. Dr. Krause also notes that cats will pant only if they get really hot. Both dogs and cats sweat a little through their paws, but it is inefficient at dissipating heat.

Lawn chemicals can pose another challenge to pets during the summer months. Fertilizer, pesticides, fly bait, insecticides, rodent bait and poisons should be kept out of reach, suggests Dr. Krause.

Summer time is an enjoyable time for you and your pets, so be sure to prepare your pets and be extra cautious while spending time in the summer heat.

To make sure you and your pets are prepared for the summer, contact your local WVMA veterinarian. Find one online at www.wvma.org!

Keeping Cows Cool in the Dairy State

Wisconsin’s dairy industry contributes more than $20 billion to the state economy annually. Keeping Wisconsin’s dairy herd healthy and productive is vital. Veterinarians play a key role in this process which becomes even more crucial during Wisconsin’s hot and humid summers.

“As a veterinarian, I work to assist dairy producers in evaluating their current facilities or developing new facilities to ensure maximum comfort for all cows, therefore reducing their heat stress levels,” says Robert Farruggio, DVM, Jefferson Veterinary Clinic. “I also work to educate my clients on the importance of good ventilation and cooling systems, and how to properly treat those animals who are experiencing heat stress.”

Heat stress occurs in cattle when they are unable to regulate their body temperature. Heat stress typically happens when the temperature is over 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is higher than 50 percent, according to Dr. Farruggio.

“When cows become heat stressed, they begin to breathe rapidly and drool excessively. During extreme heat stress, cattle will become uncoordinated and eventually will lie down but not be able to get up,” states Dr. Farruggio.

Cattle are more prone to heat stress than humans because they are only able to sweat about 10 percent of what humans can.

“Normally, humans perspire to form moisture on the skin, which eventually evaporates, causing a cooling effect,” he describes.

Cattle’s inability to sweat, coupled with symptoms of heat stress, can negatively affect the health of a cow. Fortunately, there are numerous ways farmers can keep their cows cool.

“First of all, shade or shelter and fresh, clean water should be available to the cattle at all times,” Dr. Farruggio says. “Secondly, if possible with the farm set-up, soaking the cows by allowing water to gently be applied to their backs for short periods of time either in the holding area, milking parlor or along the feeding area, will increase the cooling effect when the water evaporates.”

Dr. Farruggio also recommends ventilation systems to keep air circulating. Dairies can use several different ventilation systems to help cows stay cool. Fans and open curtain sides on barns are two common ventilation systems used.

Additionally, a cross ventilation system can be implemented. “By utilizing a cross ventilation system, it increases airflow through the facility, providing fresh, cool air to the cows,” he explains. “When combined with a system that utilizes water applied to the back of the cow, it increases the evaporative effects, therefore cooling the cow even more.”

There are many different options dairy producers use to keep their cows comfortable. Rosy-Lane Holsteins, LLC, in Watertown, is just one of the farms in the state taking an innovative approach to cool their cows.

“Farms such as Rosy-Lane Holsteins that utilize milking parlors have successfully implemented a newer concept for using water to cool cows,” Dr. Farruggio explains. “This new design is to have showerheads installed above each milking stall. At least once during the milking process and after the units are removed, the water should be turned on for eight to 10 seconds to allow the backs of the cows to be drenched. After the cows exit the parlor, the water can then slowly evaporate, reducing heat stress.”

Veterinarians like Dr. Farruggio help dairy producers ensure their animals are healthy. Rosy-Lane Holsteins has more than 850 cows that each get showers to cool them down three times a day.

It is also vital for cows to have access to clean drinking water at all times. Adult cattle require between 20-24 gallons of water per day.

“When cattle become heat stressed, their requirements for water can increase by as much as 10 additional gallons. This is why it is very important to provide multiple locations of clean, fresh water,” he adds.

Clean drinking water, moving air, and misters or showers are all important aspects of a modern dairy that farmers implement and veterinarians recommend and oversee. This summer, the Dairy State is prepared for the heat!

To learn more about keeping cows cool in the summer, contact your local WVMA veterinarian. Find one online at www.wvma.org!

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