As summer’s dog days arrive, the heat and humidity can be dangerous for your pet, but you can take certain measures to keep them safe. Our team at Colony Veterinary Hospital wants to offer tips to protect your pet from the heat’s potential hazards.

#1: Understand that heatstroke is a veterinary emergency

A pet’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees. Heatstroke is defined as an increased body temperature above 104 degrees not caused by a fever, and pets are at increased risk, since they can’t cool themselves efficiently. Pets can’t sweat like humans and must rely on other methods, such as panting and lying on cool surfaces, to disperse their heat. When a pet’s temperature rises above 104 degrees, inflammation spreads throughout their entire body, damaging numerous body systems, including their heart, lungs, nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys, and, if their temperature is not brought down, this inflammation can cause death. Brachycephalic breeds, overweight pets, senior pets, and those suffering from a preexisting condition are predisposed to heatstroke. 

#2: Recognize heat stroke signs in pets

Pets affected by heatstroke exhibit signs including excessive panting, drooling, increased respiration rate and effort, diarrhea, red gums or tongue, lethargy, weakness, collapse, and seizures. If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, you should take the following steps:

  • Take your pet to a cool area — Move your pet to a cool, well-ventilated area, preferably air-conditioned with circulating fans.
  • Offer your pet water — If your pet is conscious, provide drinking water, but don’t attempt to pour water in their mouth.
  • Take your pet’s temperature — If possible, take your pet’s temperature using a rectal thermometer, so you can relay this information to the veterinarian.
  • Cool your pet — Cover your pet with wet towels, switching out the towels every five minutes to continue the cooling process.
  • Don’t use ice — Avoid using ice or ice water, which can cause shock.
  • Take your pet to the veterinarian — Your pet will need veterinary attention if they overheat. They may seem to recover after your cooling measures, but should still be evaluated to ensure no organs were damaged. 

#3: Keep your pet hydrated

Dehydrated pets are at higher heatstroke risk. Ensure your pet always has access to several fresh water sources at home, especially if they are outside. If you take your pet on an outing, take bottled water and a bowl so you can offer a drink at regular intervals. 

#4: Never leave your pet in the car

You may be tempted to leave your pet in the car while you run a quick errand, but temperatures can rise rapidly in a car on a warm day, and put your pet in extreme danger. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked will not protect your pet—plus, leaving your pet in the car on a hot day is against California law. If you see a pet left in a car, you should:

  • Observe the pet and then move away — Quickly assess the pet for distress, and then move away so they do not become agitated, which could exacerbate the situation.
  • Observe the car — Note the car’s make, model, and license plate.
  • Make an announcement — If you are at a business location and the owner doesn’t return in five minutes, ask the business to announce the situation. Some pet owners aren’t aware they are putting their pet’s life in jeopardy by leaving them in a car.
  • Call the authorities — If the pet is in distress, or the owner doesn’t come forward quickly, call the authorities to save the pet.

#5: Leave your air conditioner on when you leave your pet at home

You may turn off your air conditioner when you leave home to save money on your electricity bill, but home temperatures can rise quickly on hot, humid days, putting your pet at risk. Close your blinds and curtains to keep temperatures down, and leave your air conditioner running.

#6: Avoid exercising your pet strenuously

Limit your pet’s activity on hot, humid days, and when outside, take frequent breaks in the shade to allow your pet to cool off, and ensure they drink plenty of water. If possible, avoid the midday hours, and walk your pet in the early morning and evening to help prevent overheating. Senior pets, overweight pets, brachycephalic breeds, and pets affected by a health condition should remain inside the air conditioning, except for brief bathroom breaks. 

#7: Protect your pet’s paws

Asphalt temperatures can measure 40 to 60 degrees hotter than the surrounding air temperature, and your pet’s paws can be burned if they walk on these hot surfaces. When walking your pet, stick to shady or unpaved areas to protect your pet’s paws. If you can’t avoid walking on paved surfaces, invest in protective booties for your four-legged friend.

Following these tips will keep your pet safe during the summer heat, but should your pet still overheat, immediately contact our team at Colony Veterinary Hospital, so we can give them the care they need.