With the dog days of summer upon us, temperatures are at their highest. While you enjoy the last weeks of summer heat, don’t forget about your furry companion. Pets who are placed in dangerous situations where they cannot escape high temperatures and humidity can quickly develop heatstroke. Follow our tips to prevent this life-threatening situation and keep your pet cool until summer is over.
1. Don’t Leave Your Pet Outdoors
Your dog may love the outdoors and would perhaps spend day and night outside if you let him, but he should never be left unattended outside for long periods in hot weather. Your yard may be pet-proofed, but he likely can get into mischief if he is bored. He also may overheat and develop heatstroke quickly if you don’t watch him closely. The safest place for pets when it’s hot outside is inside your climate-controlled home. On hot days, let your dog out for quick bathroom breaks only, and then let him back in. Set a timer for five minutes if you need a reminder.
Your cat may also enjoy spending time outside, but keep him indoors on hot days. Although cats are masterful at finding hidden, shady spots for lounging, when temperatures and humidity spike, the shade won’t offer much relief.
2. Provide Your Pet with Plenty of Water
When your pet does spend time outside, ensure a tip-proof bowl full of fresh, cool water is always available. During play time, make him take a break every 10 minutes to cool down and lap up some water.
You probably love to cool off in the water on a hot summer day, and your dog will, too. Let him splash around in a large plastic kiddie pool filled with cool water. If he loves to swim, head to the local swimming hole so he can take a dip. If you go to the beach, take a bowl and plenty of fresh water, because your dog can develop life-threatening salt-water toxicity if he drinks ocean water.
3. Take Caution with Brachycephalic Breeds
Dogs and cats have few sweat glands—they cool down by panting, which allows the release of body heat as moisture evaporates from their oral and nasal surfaces. Brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs and pugs, have flat faces with short muzzles that don’t allow for efficient cooling, so they are more likely to develop heatstroke. These pets can overheat easily with only moderate exercise, such as walking too far, and should be carefully monitored for signs of overexertion. Keep brachycephalic pets inside when temperatures climb, and watch them closely when they are out for potty breaks.
4. Plan Your Pet’s Exercise Around the Heat
Exercise and play time are vital to your dog’s mental and physical health, but ensure he does not overexert himself on hot days. Take your daily walk or jog in the early morning or late evening, when the sun is not so hot. Dogs are often poor judges of their own limits and may not stop strenuous activity as they overheat, so watch your pet closely and take a break if he begins panting and salivating excessively.
5. Never Leave Your Pet in a Closed Vehicle
You likely know your car’s interior can turn into an oven on hot days, but you may not realize that weather as cool as 70 degrees can heat your car to dangerously high temperatures. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, your car’s interior can reach higher than 110 degrees in as little as 60 minutes on a sunny, 70-degree day. At 80 degrees, your car can reach nearly 100 degrees in 10 minutes, and at 95 degrees, your car can heat up to 140 degrees. Studies show that cracking a window does not prevent your car from heating up.
Heatstroke is a threat to your pet whenever he is left in a vehicle, and can quickly progress to death if he cannot escape the heat. Never leave your pet in the car while you run errands, even for a few minutes.
6. Recognize Heatstroke Signs in Pets
Know the signs so you can identify heatstroke quickly in your pet and take action to help him cool down. Heatstroke signs include:
- Body temperature above 102 degrees
- Excessive panting
- Excessive salivation
- Stumbling and incoordination
7. Know What To Do If Your Pet Develops Heatstroke
If you think your pet may have heatstroke, take him into an air-conditioned area immediately and offer him cool water to drink. You can cover his body with towels soaked in room-temperature water, but do not place him in a tub of water or use cold water. Although cooling your pet down is important, a rapid temperature change can cause his blood pressure to drop suddenly, worsening the problem.
Always contact your primary care veterinarian if you believe your pet is exhibiting signs of heatstroke, as he may need further stabilization or monitoring. Severe cases may require specialty treatment or 24-hour care. If necessary, the East End Veterinary Center team can work with your primary veterinarian to care for your pet.