You have waited all winter long to bask in the warm Colorado sunshine during the summer months. You may plan to enjoy the warm weather with your pet, but you’ll need to take precautions to ensure they don’t fall victim to the sun’s dangers. You know that you can develop heat exhaustion if you’re not careful, but do you realize your pet can also overheat in hot, humid weather? Animal Emergency Specialty Center’s emergency service every summer treats numerous pets who exercise in the heat too much, spend too long outside, or are left in parked cars. Don’t let your pet be the sun’s next victim—know the facts about heat safety.
Fact #1: Heat exhaustion can develop quickly
On hot or humid days, your pet’s body temperature can climb quickly to a dangerous level. Unfortunately, your pet may not heed early warning signs, and continue to chase their ball, or lay in the hot sun. If your pet is outside on a hot day, stay close by to monitor their condition, and prevent them from overdoing it, and watch closely for heat exhaustion signs, which include:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Incoordination, or stumbling
Fact #2: Heat exhaustion can progress to life-threatening heatstroke if you don’t cool your pet quickly
Heatstroke is a more serious heat-related illness that develops if your pet’s body temperature rises to dangerously high levels. Heatstroke causes more severe problems, including:
- Organ damage
If you think your pet has developed heat exhaustion, act quickly to bring their body temperature down by following these steps:
- Bring your pet into your air-conditioned home, away from the heat.
- Put your pet into a sink or bathtub and run cool—never cold—water over them. Cold water causes surface blood vessels to constrict, sending your pet’s overheated blood to their heat-sensitive internal organs.
- Hold your pet’s head above water if they cannot do it themselves.
- Monitor your pet’s rectal temperature, and remove them from the water when their temperature reaches 103 degrees, and dry them off.
- If your pet does not improve in 10 minutes, or has heatstroke signs, take them promptly to the nearest veterinary hospital for treatment. After your pet has cooled down, take them to your family veterinarian or AESC’s emergency department for immediate evaluation. Although your pet may seem to recover, heatstroke often causes internal organ damage that does not become obvious for several days. Diagnostic testing can tell us about your pet’s organ function, so we can provide supportive treatments to help them recover.
Fact #3: Some pets are at higher risk of overheating
Any pet can develop heat exhaustion or heatstroke, if they are exposed to high heat and humidity for a prolonged period, but some pets are more susceptible, including:
- Brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, shih tzus, and Persian cats
- Older pets
- Overweight pets
- Debilitated pets
- Pets with heart disease
- Pets with breathing problems, such as collapsing trachea or laryngeal paralysis
Brachycephalic pets often develop heat-related problems, because they are not able to cool themselves as efficiently as pets with a longer muzzle. When pets become hot, their main cooling method is panting, which allows moisture to evaporate from their oral and nasal passages. Brachycephalic pets have shorter nasal passages as well as their short muzzle, and cannot cool themselves through evaporation as effectively.
If you have a brachycephalic pet, or another pet who is at high risk of overheating, take them out only for short bathroom breaks on hot and humid days, and let them stay cool inside during the rest of the day.
Fact #4: Your pet needs your help to help prevent heat-related illnesses
You may need to be the voice of reason to keep your energetic Labrador or eager Weimaraner safe on hot days. To prevent a heat-related disaster, follow these tips:
- Supervise your pet — Never leave your pet unattended outside on a hot day, as heat exhaustion can develop quickly. During playtime, encourage them to take frequent breaks to cool off and rehydrate.
- Provide shade and water — Ensure your pet can escape the sun under a tree or on your deck, and provide plenty of fresh, cool water in a tip-proof bowl.
- Exercise when it is cooler — Schedule your daily walk or jog for the early morning or evening hours, when the sun is not so hot.
- Test the pavement — Pavement and blacktop absorb the sun’s rays, and can heat to temperatures that can scorch your pet’s paw pads. Before heading out, place the back of your hand on the sidewalk—if it is too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws.
- Never leave your pet in a parked car — A parked car can heat to dangerously high temperatures in a matter of minutes. On a 70-degree day, the inside of a car can reach almost 100 degrees in 20 minutes.
Your pet needs your help to prevent a heat-related problem, so take precautions to keep them safe this summer. If you need our help, AESC’s emergency service is available 24/7 to care for any problem that arises—simply contact us, or stop in.