As summer approaches and temperatures begin to rise, it's important for pet owners to be aware of the risks associated with hot weather. Cats and dogs don't sweat like people do, so they cannot cool down easily in the heat. Heat-related injuries include burns, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is a less severe form of heat injury that can cause similar symptoms to heat stroke, as well as lethargy, decreased appetite, and a lack of coordination. Heat stroke is a serious condition that can occur when pets are exposed to high temperatures for too long or without enough hydration. It can cause severe organ damage and even death in some cases. The signs of heat stroke in pets can include:
- Excessive panting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Red, dry, or pale gums
- Weakness or collapse
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Seizures or tremors
To keep your furry friends safe during the hot months, here are a few tips on how to protect them from heat stroke and other heat related injuries:
- Monitor your pet’s outdoor time closely. Make sure they have access to shade and plenty of water when outside, as well as regular breaks inside if necessary. For temperatures at or above 90ºF, pets should spend no more than 10-15 minutes outside for brief bathroom or play breaks. Remember that younger and older pets may not handle the heat as well as adult animals so be extra vigilant with them.
- Exercise carefully. Intense physical activities such as running and playing can increase your pet’s body temperature, leading to heat stroke. If possible, try to keep their activity level low during hot days or provide breaks in a cool area.
- Avoiding walking your dog between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. This is the peak time where temperatures are rising for the day. Additionally, avoid walking on hot pavement and choose shaded forests, parks, or other grassy terrain. In direct sunlight, pavement can reach up to 135°F on a day that is only 86°F. That is hot enough to burn your dog’s feet! Always test the safety of a pavement by placing your hand on the surface and holding it for 5-10 seconds. If it’s uncomfortable for you, it’s too hot for your dog.
- Watch for signs of heat exhaustion. Signs that your pet may be suffering from the heat include heavy panting, drooling, weakness, or increased heart rate. If you notice any of these symptoms take your pet inside immediately and offer them plenty of water until they are back to normal.
- Keep your pet groomed and clipped. Thick fur traps in the heat making it harder for pets to regulate their temperatures in summer months so make sure to regularly groom and clip their fur.
- Never leave your pet in a parked car on a hot day, as temperatures can soar to dangerous levels within minutes, even with the windows cracked. Relying on your vehicle’s air conditioning to keep your pet cool is also extremely dangerous. According to veterinarians.org, there have been numerous instances of vehicle air conditioning malfunctioning.
If you suspect your pet is experiencing heat stroke, it's important to act quickly. Move your pet to a cool area, offer water to drink, and apply cool water to their fur. However, it's important not to use ice-cold water or ice as this can cause the blood vessels to constrict and prevent proper cooling. Contact your veterinarian immediately for further guidance and treatment. In severe cases, heat-related injuries can be life-threatening, so it's important to take preventive measures and recognize the signs of heat injury in your pets.
By following these simple tips, you can ensure your pet stays safe and healthy during the hot summer months.