National Report - Even in states where high temperatures are the norm, the dog days of summer brought an increase in office visits to veterinary clinics, and both companion-animal and large-animal clinics are sweating it out.
NATIONAL REPORT — Even in states where high temperatures are the norm, the dog days of summer brought an increase in office visits to veterinary clinics, and both companion-animal and large-animal clinics are sweating it out.
At the Meyerland Animal Clinic in Houston, Lori Teller, DVM, says heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the biggest culprits as the state continues to set records for both temperature and lack of rainfall. The Houston area has seen only 10 inches of rain this season, when the normal rainfall for the area is nearly triple that amount.
As a result, clients are being forced to walk their animals earlier in the morning and late at night when it is cooler. While long-time residents of the area are used to this routine, it's definitely a strain, says Teller, immediate past-president of the Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA).
"As summer has gone on, people seem to be getting the idea," she says. And while she doesn't have an exact number of canines that have suffered heat exhaustion and heat stroke, it does seem like more this year, she says. "It's definitely on an upswing."
The lack of rainfall brought other health-related problems, too. Snake bites are on the rise as the reptiles search for water in more residential areas, and there has been a large increase in the number of rabies cases as wild animals move in searching for water. Companion-animals, and sometimes people, end up being the unwitting victims in these cases, Teller says.
"It has definitely not been a good summer for people or animals," she says.
Feline-only practices have seen little increase in business as a result of the excessive heat warnings and heat advisories plaguing the country, even in some of the hardest hit areas.
"Cats are usually not contained, so they are able to find shade somewhere," says Natasha Walke, DVM, of the Cat Clinic of Johnson County in Lenexa, Kan.
Kansas has been one of the hottest states this summer with more than 20 days of triple-digit temperatures, according to The National Weather Service. The annual average is 10.
"They (cats) get most of the water they need from what they eat, so they do really well in spite of the heat," Walke continues. "They're coded right for high temperatures."
In her practice this summer, she has seen only one heat-related case—a cat that was accidentally left out on a balcony. That incident proved not to be fatal.
Other animals have not been as lucky. More than 4,300 turkeys died near Columbus, Kan. as a result of the heat. Last July, more than 2,000 cattle died in central Kansas, and while the numbers are nowhere near as high this year, that doesn't mean that veterinarians in the area aren't called in to respond to heat-related health problems.
"We've had a few cattle that have been overheated," says Matt Fehr, DVM, of the Animal Medical Center in Great Bend, Kan. "What we're seeing this year is more drought issues than heat issues. We're running out of grass, so farmers are weaning calves early and selling cows. Texas has had this problem for several years now. They were sending their cattle north from Texas to here. Now, we're sending our cattle north where there is grass. Depending on how many cows are sold, it's going to be pretty tough."
October through December is typically a busy time for the mostly large-animal practice with a large amount of work focused on reproduction. Fewer cows mean less business.
"It's a pretty good chunk of income," Fehr says. "I'm worried about it."
Canines in Kansas have been beating the dog days fairly well, according to Fehr. Again, his practice has seen just a handful of overheated dogs, he says.