Is your summer routine putting your pet at risk for heat related injury or heatstroke? D. K’s Pet Clinic asks the following questions, to help you recognize and understand the dangers of heat for pets.
Do you spend a lot of time outdoors with your pet?
Your pet enjoys spending time with you, but active and resting pets can overheat quickly in the summer. Since they cannot sweat, pets rely almost exclusively on panting to stay cool, and their panting quickly loses its effectiveness when the mercury rises. Flat-faced or brachycephalic dog and cat breeds, such as pugs, shih tzus, and Persians, are especially prone to heatstroke.
Do you run errands with your pet, who loves car rides?
You don’t go anywhere without your furry copilot, and they don’t mind waiting while you make a quick stop at the store—but you should never leave your pet in a parked car. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the temperature in a parked car on a 70-degree day can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes, and nearly 30 degrees in only 20 minutes.
Do you exercise your pet on your daily lunch break, because your evenings are too busy?
Summer evenings are likely consumed with sports events or practice, parties, travel preparations, and other activities—making exercising your dog in the middle of the day more convenient. Unfortunately, this coincides with the sun’s maximum intensity and extremely hot asphalt or concrete that puts your dog at risk for heat stress and paw pad burns.
Do you play long games outside with your energetic new puppy, to wear them out?
Tossing a ball or frisbee repeatedly will not only tire out a puppy, but also lead to overexertion, since high energy puppies notoriously do not know their limits. They will play beyond their comfort and ability levels, and may collapse before you notice any heat stress or heatstroke signs, so you must monitor their amount of play in hot weather.
Does your dog love the water so much that you can’t hold them back?
Water-loving dogs usually cannot get enough, and often get caught in a repeated loop of jumping, swimming, and returning to the dock, deck, or boat. This is certainly comical, but also a way to rapidly overheat. Despite the cooling water, your pet’s body temperature can still rise from the non-stop physical activity, and cause physical exhaustion that may lead to drowning. Never leave your pet unsupervised around any body of water.
If any of your answers are “Yes,” your pet is at risk
Heatstroke is not an epic event, but a daily threat for every pet and pet owner that, fortunately, can be prevented in most cases.
Heatstroke warning signs
When you know what to look for, you can be proactive for your pet—or someone else’s.
Restlessness and excessive panting, often with a wide, dilated tongue, are often early indications that a pet is overheating. If they are not moved to a cool location, their body temperature will rise above the normal range of 100 to 102.5 degrees, and you will see the following signs:
- Excessive drooling
- Red or discolored gums
- Weakness, progressing to collapse
Treatment for a pet with heatstroke
If your pet is showing heatstroke signs, take them to an air conditioned location. Call us immediately for instructions, which may include:
- Bringing your pet immediately to our clinic if they are unconscious or collapsed
- Cooling them gradually if they are conscious, wetting them down with cool—never cold—water in a bathtub or sink
- Taking their temperature to establish a baseline—you should have a thermometer in your pet first aid kit
We will ask you to bring them to our clinic if their temperature has not dropped after 10 minutes, because they will need stabilization and hospitalization, and monitoring for internal damage. Hopefully, your pet improves with your at-home care, but we will still recommend scheduling an appointment so we can check for organ injury that may not be outwardly noticeable.
Heatstroke protection for your pet
For many pets, heatstroke is deadly. For all pets, heatstroke is preventable.
- Temperatures — When it’s really hot outside:
- Ensure your pet has cool, fresh water, and access to shade, and monitor them closely for signs of discomfort.
- Consider purchasing them a cooling vest or mat.
- Leave your pet at home, or ensure someone stays in the car with your pet, if the temperature is higher than 70 degrees.
- Exercise your pet in the late morning or early evening, or try indoor fitness activities.
- Mental exercise — Wear out your puppy or young dog with mental, rather than physical, engagement. Try puzzle toys, slow feeders, snuffle mats, and games that require your dog to use their nose. Scent work is satisfying and tiring for all dogs.
- Water — Enforce rest breaks for your water-loving dog. While swimming and wading are great warm weather activities, they should be done in moderation. Do not leave your dog unsupervised near water.
Summer can be completely fun and not hazardous for your pet—with these precautions. Contact Dr. K’s Pet Clinic if you have additional questions about your pet’s specific heat risks or are concerned they are showing signs of heat stress.