Last Friday around noon, school student Muthumani from Alangulam went with his brother to meet the veterinarian at the Government Poly Clinic at Tallakulam. He was carrying a small goat in his arms.
While waiting for their turn, the young student fainted. People around immediately rushed to his help. Water was sprinkled on his face. He was made to take rest, given a glass of fruit juice and then taken to a nearby hospital.
It was heat that weakened Muthumani. This is a sign of the hard summer days ahead. But while we can manage with some care and fluid intake, ever wondered the plight of animals under the merciless sun beating down? Dogs, cattle, sheep and goat, to name a few, also need special care in this season. And ensuring that is an issue of priority.
The rising mercury is already showing its impact on the animals if the growing number of outpatient cases in the veterinary clinics is an indication.
N.S. Raja of Panangadi near Kulamangalam is a worried man because his bulky eight-month old German Shepherd has been bleeding from the nose for the past one week and is daily been taken to the veterinary hospital. “Bleeding occurs owing to heat stress and pure breeds tend to suffer the most in summer,” points out K. Vairavasamy, Veterinary Assistant Surgeon, Department of Animal Husbandry, Madurai. “The German Shepherd was treated and had recovered but is back again with a bleeding nose. Plenty of water in-take is a must for good health,” he adds.
The disappearance of ponds and tanks in the city has added to the misery of large animals. The water scarcity is visible. Into just the first week of April, and Veterinary Assistant Surgeon S.S .Senthil Kumar at Tallakulam is busier than ever. “Summer management of dogs, cattle and poultry is an important issue. Dogs in particular need attention at home. We get 120 OP cases a day and of that 80 to 90 are dogs,” he says.
Pure and exotic canine breeds such as Pug, Mastiff, Labrador, Doberman, Rottweiler and St. Bernard are more prone to heat. Pomeranians tend to have more hair loss. “We recommend plenty of fluids for dogs. In cases where it is required, steroids should be given to counter the heat stroke. Since dogs have no sweat glands, they need more internal cooling,” says Dr. Senthil Kumar.
According to veterinarian M.S. Saravanan of Tirupparankundram Veterinary Dispensary, if the day temperature goes up by four degrees Centigrade, it leads to acute salivation and panting among dogs. In severe cases, the dog will collapse in the absence of proper medical care.
Coupled with heat, scarcity of dry fodder and feed is another challenge faced by cattle during peak summer, warn the vets.
Assistant Veterinary Surgeon S. Sankar of A.Vellalapatti dispensary near Alagarkoil recommends early morning and late evening grazing for animals as most of the ponds have run dry. “When it comes to canines, keep the flooring wet and cool so that it can lie down. The dog feels cool on the wet surface,” he says.
Dr. Sankar also calls for caution on birds since summer stroke can lead to death. “There should be good ventilation if you have birds at home. If a bird dies late in the evening, it is predominantly because of heat stroke,” he explains.
Joint Director of Animal Husbandry P. Rajasekaran points out the economic loss for farmers if cattle or goat and sheep fall sick during summer. “The fertility and milk yield of buffaloes gets affected in heat. They need lot of water to remain hydrated,” he says. To avoid crisis during summer, the department is implementing fodder development scheme under which fodder seeds will be supplied at subsidised rates.
G. Srinivasan, Assistant Professor at Veterinary University Training and Research Centre in Rajapalayam advises that animals should be milked early morning or after sunset to avoid stress. “After milking, give plenty of water. Dairy animals get severely dehydrated and water intake is the only way out,” he says.
The Animal Disease Intelligence Unit in Madurai is gearing up to meet the summer challenge. More than 1.8 lakh cattle have been vaccinated in 13 blocks of Madurai district to prevent foot-and-mouth disease. This vaccination will prevent loss of milk yield.
Dr. Senthil Kumar says pet dogs can be fed with more curd rice and glucose water. “Summer management is all about simple home remedies,” he says. But if the dog is having excess salivation or breathing difficulty, then it should be taken to the vet. “Delay can cause irreversible damage of brain,” he cautions.
In the case of poultry, Ranikhet disease strikes in summer causing whitish diarrhoea. Regular vaccination for this disease is done on Saturdays at the Veterinary Poly Clinic. Places such as Anaiyur, Alanganallur, Madhichiyam, Maanagiri, Tahsildar Nagar and Sellur where poultry is more need special surveillance.
“It is all about thermo regulatory mechanism and animals such as buffaloes do not have the power to withstand,” says Dr. Vairavasamy. Like we, humans, suffer in hot months, it is the same for animals too. “Let us do our bit and keep them cool by giving the right and timely supplements,” he adds.
PFA pitches in for water
To beat the scorching heat, the Madurai traffic personnel are given lemon juice four times a day. This scheme came into effect on April 2 with special fund sanctioned by the State. Animal welfare activists point out that under the same climatic conditions animals also face the same risk of dehydration but do not get adequate drinking water.
The People for Animals (PFA), a voluntary organisation, plans to keep water containers at various places in the city so that the wandering animals can quench their thirst. “This will start in a few days. With the support of Blue Cross, we plan to keep water containers in 20 strategic spots in the city this year,” says P. Palanikumar, honorary secretary, PFA, Madurai.
The same applies to cats, parrots and other domesticated creatures. A special initiative is being planned by the PFA to bring animal lovers together and launch a massive animal protection movement in Madurai.
Home-maker Nalini Muralidharan of D.R.O .Colony, is a campaigner for animal rights and pet care. Her two prized possessions are her pet dogs Sandy and EJ. “At home, we provide special care for our loved ones and they are more than family members,” she says.
For the summer ahead, she is prepared to prevent her pets from suffering sun stroke and takes special care with regard to food, water and shelter. “We keep plenty of water for our pets all the time and never give them leftover food. We take enough care to keep them cool and make them comfortable,” she says, adding, how important it is to monitor their health as symptoms of sunstroke are often not visible.