Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Hot weather tips for pets and livestock

Dr. Minden Buswell
WSDA Veterinarian

As the summer heat rises, it's important to help
 your livestock stay cool.
Hot weather can reduce animals’ feed intake, growth, production, reproduction, welfare, and overall health. Each year the livestock and poultry industries lose billions due to livestock heat stress.

Here are a few tips and links to help keep your livestock and pets healthy during the summer heat.

Livestock heat stress: recognition, response, and prevention

According to this Washington State University Extension fact sheet, "Livestock Heat Stress: Recognition, Response and Prevention," keeping animals cool with shade, water on the skin, airflow and cool drinking water is important, especially if they show signs of heat stress. These warning signs include:

Crowding around water tanks or shade
Poor appetite
Increased respiratory rate
Elevated heart rate
Immobility or aimless wandering
Drooling or slobbering

If you observe signs of heat stress, it's time to take action. To help cool them down, you should

1. Provide shade immediately.
2. Soak the animal's body with lukewarm to cool water.
3. Increase airflow around the animal using fans if possible.
4. Provide cool drinking water.
5. Minimize handling, transportation, and stress.
6. Call veterinarian for consultation.

A word about water

It may seem obvious that water requirements for livestock rise with the temperature, but some folks may not be aware of just how much more water animals need when it gets hot. According to information from University of Nebraska and University of Iowa extensions, water consumption when the temperature reaches 90 F can be almost twice what it is at 70 F.
Here’s a link to a useful fact sheet put out by the Iowa 4H.

Heat index:

 "Be prepared, even if the risk is several index units away. Additional
 solar heat, lack of air movement and heavy fat cover all can lead
 to disastrous effects of heat stress." NDSU Heat Stress Guide 
Many factors come into play when it comes to assessing the level of stress heat puts on animals. Physical workload, body weight, confinement and even hide color can all contribute to heat stress. For example, dark-hided animals are more susceptible to heat stress than their light-hided counter parts. But,  just like it does for people, humidity can really increase the discomfort on a hot day. As this table illustrates, the “feels like” factor should be taken into consideration, too.

Heat stress in cattle

With all that’s at stake, it pays to adopt a three-step plan for hot weather.
  1. Learn how to identify the animals most at risk of heat stress.
  2. Develop an action plan.
  3. Know when to intervene.
North Dakota State University lays out a sensible approach to the problem in their brochure, "Dealing with Heat Stress in Beef Cattle Operations."

Visit WSDA's Animal Health Program webpage for other resources.