Animal welfare at the salon: Thermal stress

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Learn how to relieve heat stress on animals during the summer months.

Maintaining animal welfare and animal care is paramount in the 4-H animal science experiment. Youth, volunteers and parents spend months preparing the animals to show off at the fair or exhibit, a unique experience for 4-H members and animals. In order to maintain excellent animal welfare at a fair or exhibition, there are a few special considerations to keep in mind. This Michigan State University Extension series will address several of these considerations. The first article explained thermoregulation and the thermoneutral zone, which is important to understand the subject covered: heat stress.

Heat stress occurs when animals are unable to dissipate heat. According to USDA Heat Stress Prediction, four important meteorological parameters influence how animals feel the ambient temperature: temperature, wind speed, humidity and solar radiation. This combination of factors plays a role in the overall heat balance of animals.

The best way to deal with heat stress is to prevent it from happening. Here are a few things to keep in mind to minimize heat stress in an animal:

  • Have sufficient fresh and fresh water on hand and delivered in a manner appropriate for the species.
  • Provide shade, sprinklers, fans, or other species-appropriate methods to help keep animals cool.
  • Do not transport animals during the hottest times of the day. If transportation is required, reduce the number of animals in a trailer, open all vents, don’t stop – keep moving so that there is airflow in the trailer – and don’t lie down deeply because this will retain the body heat of the animals.
  • Do not exercise an animal during the hottest times of the day. If exercise is necessary, keep the fight short and don’t overwork the animal.
  • Don’t push food during the hottest times of the day. Metabolic processes generate additional body heat; feed at cooler times of the day and expect lower food intake.
  • Do not overcrowd or overcrowd the pens. Animals lying together generate the heart of the body.

Even with taking steps to alleviate heat stress, it can still happen. Here are the important signs to look for:

  • Panting or open mouth breathing
  • Foaming around the mouth or excessive salivation
  • Increased breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Trembling
  • Lack of coordination
  • No interest in food or water
  • Increase in rectal temperature

As heat stress worsens, the animal may collapse, become unresponsive, have seizures, or even die.

If an animal exhibits the symptoms mentioned above, measures should be taken to cool the animal. Not pouring or rinsing an animal with excessive amounts of cold water. It might seem like a good idea to help the animal calm down quickly, but it can actually put them into shock and make their condition worse. Here are some ways to help pets cool off safely:

  • Provide shade for the animal, do not try to move the animal to another area.
  • Increase air flow with fans.
  • Wet the animal slowly and over a prolonged period with cold or lukewarm water; do not use cold water.
  • Administer a sprinkle of cool water by mouth (make sure someone who knows how to water does).
  • Add sprinklers so that the water droplets fall on the animal’s skin. Foggers may not work because the water droplets are too fine to reach an animal’s skin through the coat.

Check out these resources for more information:

The next article in this series will talk about water consumption for animals during the fair.

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