Heat stress and achievement days: Animal considerations

Heat stress and achievement days: Animal considerations By Extension Veterinarian Animals shown at achievement days and fairs may be at increased risk for heat stress compared to their counterparts left at home.

Increased activity associated with transport, showing and other handling in hot and humid weather may predispose these animals to heat stress and possibly serious health consequences.

With the exception of horses, animals shown at fairs and achievement days (cattle sheep, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats and poultry) do not perspire and cannot regulate their body temperature in that manner. Therefore, physical activity during hot and humid conditions makes it more difficult for animals to maintain normal body temperatures.

When exposed to these conditions, animals� body temperatures reach their peak in the late afternoon and early evening hours.

When extreme heat and humidity conditions are present, the most important means of lessening risk of heat stress to animals is to avoid activity (transporting, handling and showing) during the afternoon and early evening hours. This may mean altering showing and/or checking-in or checking-out schedules so that these activities can be performed in the morning hours, when animals� body temperature is already low.

Species-specific considerations:

Cattle

? Signs of heat stress: panting, open-mouth breathing, excessive salivation, lack of coordination, trembling, high rectal temperature (>104).

? How to help: offer shade, fans, plentiful drinking water, sprinklers. Sprinklers must provide large droplets rather than a mist (contributes to the humidity).

Horses

? Signs of heat stress: profuse sweating, rapid breathing , rapid heart rate, panting, high rectal temperature.

? How to help: offer shade, fans, run cool water on legs, frequent small amounts of drinking water.

Sheep and Goats

? Signs of heat stress: rapid breathing rate, panting, inability to stand, weakness, high rectal temperature.

? How to help: offer shade, fans, plentiful drinking water, use rubbing alcohol on wool-less areas in flank and between rear legs. Do not spray sheep with water. If wool gets wet, then air cannot flow properly over the skin for evaporative cooling. For goats, run cool water over back of head.

? Signs of heat stress: panting, open-mouth breathing, high rectal temperature.

? How to help: offer shade, fans, plentiful drinking water, sprinklers. Sprinklers should provide large droplets and not be used continuously (cycle two minutes on, two minutes off).

Rabbits

? Signs of heat stress: rapid breathing, stretching out on floor.

? How to help: offer shade, fans, plentiful drinking water, sprinklers, mist ears with water.

Dogs and Cats

? Signs of heat stress: excessive panting (dogs), open-mouth breathing (cats), muscle cramps, deepening of mucous membrane color (or becoming pale and dry), weakness, excessive salivation, high rectal temperature.

? How to help: offer shade, fans, small frequent amounts of drinking water, run cool water over belly and groin area.

Poultry

? Signs of heat stress: heavy panting, lifting wings away from body, darkened skin color due to blood being mobilized to the skin.

? How to help: offer shade, fans, cool, plentiful drinking water.

Fairs and achievement days are opportunities to showcase animal care and welfare to the public at large. Taking common-sense measures to ensure animal safety and maintaining flexibility with schedules is of utmost importance during extreme weather conditions.

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