Summer Heat can be Dangerous
Summer is a wonderful time of year for all kinds of outdoor activities, but the extreme heat of the season can be dangerous for both humans and pets. Similar to people, cats and dogs can suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. They can get a sunburn and they can suffer from the effects of hot surfaces as well. There are several things that we can do as pet owners to reduce the amount of stress from heat to our pets and to help keep them safe from harmful effects.
The most serious concern in severe heat is heat stroke. This comes about when the animal overheats and is no longer able to cool down to maintain a normal temperature (100-102.5 degrees for dogs; 100.5-102.5 for cats). This is a very serious condition and can cause organ failure, seizures, brain damage and death. A pet that is showing signs of heat stroke should be seen immediately by a veterinarian for treatment as soon as possible. They will need specialized fluids and possibly oxygen and monitoring for additional organ damage.
Animals more susceptible to suffer stress from heat include both very young and older animals, those with darker fur, overweight animals, brachiocephalic breeds with short noses (such as Boxers, Bulldogs, Pugs) and those who have been recently ill. Pets that suffer from and survive heat stroke are more likely to experience it again, so extra care must be taken in the future to protect them from excessive heat.
If your pet is overheating, they might exhibit signs of heat exhaustion prior to collapse. Symptoms can include excessive panting, lethargy, drooling, fever and vomiting. A first step in helping your pet is help them to lower their body temperature. Move them to a cooler location – preferably somewhere indoors with a fan or air conditioner – and provide cool fresh water for them. Use room temperature water (either by hand or in a misting spray bottle) to help cool their skin via evaporation. Monitor your pet closely for improvement.
There are other things you can do to help protect your pet from adverse effects from heat, such as limiting exercise periods during hot days. Take walks in the morning and evening hours so that you can minimize their exposure during the hottest parts of the day. Keep them on grassy areas if possible as hot surfaces can harm their paw pads as well as increase their body temperatures. Outside areas should have access to a shady or sheltered area and should always have easy, nearby access to cool clean water – preferably in a container that can’t be tipped over. Help keep water cool by using ice cubes or adding a container of frozen chicken or beef stock. If you have access to a small clamshell pool or a sprinkler, you can allow your dog to use these to cool off as well (with supervision).
Never use a muzzle for your dog in hot weather as it restricts their ability to pant – which is how they cool themselves off to maintain their body temperature. Grooming to remove shedding fur or trimming long hair can help to keep your pet cooler, but don’t shave too close (leave at least an inch in length) as the fur protects your pet from sunburn.
Finally, never leave your pet in a parked car as temperatures will rise very quickly – even if the windows are open. If you have any additional questions about heat issues for your pet, please let us know! Contact our team at Longview Animal Hospital at 903-807-0887.