Dealing with Heat Stress in Livestock and Pets

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Dealing with Heat Stress 

Summers in North Carolina can be brutal between our high temperatures and high humidity. This combination is hard on people and animals alike. Did you know that cattle can start seeing the effects of heat stress at 70 degrees Fahrenheit? Water intake doubles between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat stress can reduce reproduction performance, lower meat quality, slow growth rates, and even lead to death. 

Horses are also heavily affected by heat! When you are deciding to ride your horse in the summer it is important to account for the Heat Index. This is calculated by taking the temperature and adding humidity. When the Heat Index is between 130 and 150 you should use caution and monitor your horses frequently. Do NOT ride if the Heat Index is over 180. 

Sheep and goats tend to be more tolerant than horses and cattle. They evolved in desert climates. Hair sheep are more tolerant than their wool counterparts. However, they have less tolerance when stressed. A prime example of this is when being worked. 

We can’t forget our companion animals and livestock dogs. They are also affected by the heat. One of the leading causes of death in livestock dogs is heat stress from working and their high drive. Make sure to provide your companion animals and livestock dogs extra water and shelter during hot days. Avoid using working dogs in temperatures above 90 degrees. When taking companion animals for walks during the summer, walk them on dirt or grass. Asphalt and concrete hold heat and will burn the paw pads of your companions. 

Here are some tips on how to prevent stress and the signs to look for in your animals. 

  • Monitor watering systems more frequently
  • Provide shelter or shade if there is no natural shade
  • Feed pasture instead of hay when possible
  • Avoid working, moving or riding animals between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Do not haul animals on trailers between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. 

Signs of Heat Stress

  • Excess panting
  • Excess saliva 
  • Increased sweat
  • Laying down 
  • Labored breathing

What to Do

  • Treat heat stress as an EMERGENCY
  • Call your veterinarian, heat stress often needs to be treated with IV fluids
  • Provide electrolytes