SUMMER IS HERE and everyone is trying to keep cool – humans and animals alike. Not only can the heat be uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous. On these hot and humid days, it’s essential for all pet owners to remember that animals can succumb to heat exhaustion and heatstroke just like humans. Unfortunately, even with emergency treatment, heatstroke can still be fatal. The best way to avoid this horrible condition from occurring to your pet is with awareness and prevention.
One of the most obvious danger zones to avoid is your car. Even on a mild summer day, the temperature on the inside of a parked car can easily rise to above 120 degrees and cracking the windows is just not enough to keep the car cool. So before bringing Fido with you to run errands on a summer day, consider if you will have to park your car and leave him alone for any period of time. If the answer is yes, it’s best to leave him at home. You can bond over a frosty paw when you return!
Second, leaving animals outside on a hot and humid day can prove to be just as dangerous as leaving them in a parked car. Animals that are outside should have access to shade and plenty of fresh water, but if the day is 90 degrees or higher, and especially if it’s a day when the humidity is high, the best place for your pet is inside an air conditioned home.
The last risky situation that we’ll mention is going for a walk or run on a hot day and humid day. We know that for many of our clients and patients, going for that walk or run is an essential part of the day. If this is the case in your family, please avoid these activities during the mid day—when the sun is at peak exposure. Instead, take that walk or run first thing in the morning or in the evening when the sun is not out in full force. And if the day is simply too hot and humid even when the sun is down, consider skipping the activity for the day.
Though it is important to be cautious with all animals during these dog-days of summer, some animals are more fragile than others and their owners must be more cautious. When animals get hot, they sweat through their paws, which is really not enough to cool the body. So, to release their excess body heat, animals will pant. Brachycephalic breeds (animals that have flat faces) have smaller airway passages and can not breathe or pant as effectively and will tend to overheat faster. Elderly animals, overweight animals, or animals with heart or lung disease will also have a difficult time releasing excess heat and will overheat faster as well. The best place for these animals is in the air conditioning.
Signs that your pet might be suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness / Collapse
- Rapid heartbeat
- Body temperature of 104° or higher
Please remember that heatstroke is an emergency situation and if you suspect that your pet is suffering from this condition, contact us for immediate attention. You will be instructed to bring your pet in as soon as possible. In the interim, work lowering your pet’s body temperature. You can place the animal in a cool water bath or rinse the animal with cold water from the garden hose, but be careful of hoses that have been out in the sun all day as the water inside the hose will be extremely hot and may burn the skin. Also, offer plenty of cool water for the animal to drink. Once the animal has arrived to the hospital, we will immediately assess your pet’s condition and proceed with cooling procedures along with possible IV fluid therapy and medications.
Above all, summer is a time to enjoy being outside and active with family, friends and pets! And with a little bit of planning and precaution, everyone can enjoy all that summer has to offer safely.