The sizzling summer is here. As you venture out with your pet to enjoy all that the warm-weather season has to offer, do not let heat-related hazards ruin the fun. Protect your pet by following our Providence Vet team’s heat safety tips.
#1: Know heatstroke signs in pets
Heatstroke is a tragic and preventable condition that especially affects dogs and cats because they are unable to sweat (i.e., evaporatively cool) to reduce their body temperature. During summer’s warm weather, pets can rapidly experience heatstroke—a potentially fatal condition. To help prevent your pet from experiencing heatstroke, learn about their risk level, and become familiar with the signs:
- Flat-faced, older, obese, and weak — When the temperatures are high, minimize your pet’s outdoor time if they are a flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) breed, with shortened noses and narrow airways that make panting less efficient. Also, minimize outdoor time for senior, obese, and weakened pets, who may have decreased cardiovascular health.
- Pet supervision — Avoid forgetting that you let your pet out by always supervising them when they are outdoors during the summer. Keep in mind that pets may experience heat-related distress in minutes when left unattended in sunny yards or enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces.
- Heatstroke signs — While the best way to protect your pet from developing heatstroke is to keep them indoors, they must at least be allowed to get outdoors to eliminate. When the temperatures are skyrocketing, your pet can overheat after a short time outdoors, so being able to recognize heatstroke’s early signs can help ensure you begin cooling down your pet before the damage becomes irreversible. Initial signs include:
- Excessive panting
- High heart rate
- High respiratory rate
If your pet’s body temperature continues to rise to dangerous levels, heatstroke can cause internal disruption and more serious signs, such as:
- Discolored gums
At heatstroke’s first signs, bring your pet to a cooler area—ideally an air conditioned building. Take their temperature, and offer them a drink of cool water. If your pet is in obvious distress, wet them down with cool—not cold—water, and contact Providence Vet. If your pet is seizing or unconscious, take them to the nearest emergency veterinary care facility.
#2: Exercise your dog during cooler hours
Physical activity is an important part of your pet’s health and wellbeing, and you may want to reschedule your pet’s outdoor activity to early morning or or late evening to avoid the day’s peak temperatures. Remember to take frequent breaks and offer your dog water. If your dog is exuberant or excitable, they may ignore the heat and quickly succumb to heatstroke, so stick with low-impact exercise (e.g., walking, swimming) to prevent an emergency.
#3: Never leave your pet unattended in a parked vehicle
Every year, countless pets suffer heatstroke and die after being left unattended in a parked vehicle. Whether the windows are open or closed, vehicles heat up rapidly—reaching life-threatening temperatures in as few as 10 minutes. Leaving your pet alone in a vehicle with the motor running is not an option, as cars can overheat or lose power, and if your air conditioning fails, warm outside air will be pumped into the enclosed cabin.
If your destination does not welcome pets, leave them at home—especially when temperatures are warmer than 70 degrees.
#4: Supervise your pet around water
When summer weather heats up, we all want to head to the water to cool down. And, while many pets enjoy playing in the water, you must keep them safe from water’s hazards to ensure their summer plans don’t go bottom-up. The following steps will help keep your pet safe around water:
- Ensure your pet wears a life jacket — Whether your pet is a champion swimmer or a landlubber, a life jacket protects them if they fall in, become fatigued while swimming or playing, or are hit by an unexpected wave. A life jacket with a handle allows you to easily grab your pet.
- Help your pet avoid water toxicity — Water toxicity is a serious condition that happens when pets take in too much water—often while swimming or playing at a beach or in a pool. Excessive water consumption can lead to an electrolyte imbalance, and cause nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and a distended abdomen.
- Avoid stagnant or algae-covered water — Stagnant or algae-covered water can contain dangerous bacteria and parasites. Allow your pet to play in only clear, moving water, and avoid areas where green algae slime or film is visible. Be vigilant around the shoreline where pets tend to walk and drink, because algae and unseen toxins may be present.
- Rinse your pet’s skin and coat after swimming — After your pet has been playing or swimming in the water, always rinse them with clean water to remove bacteria, debris, salt, or pool chemicals (e.g., chlorine) that may irritate their skin and coat.
#5: Protect your pet’s paws from hot walkways
Avoid walking your pet on heat-absorbing pavement when the sun’s rays are blazing and shortly after. Surfaces such as asphalt, artificial turf, and metal (e.g., park benches or sewer grates) can become dangerously hot. While your pet may not react immediately to walking on a hot surface, their paw pad burns may appear later, and they may experience painful blistering and lose their paw pad. Help prevent your pet from experiencing this heat-related injury by staying on the grass when possible, or by placing them in a pair of protective boots.
Summer activities can be extra fun when shared with your pet. Keep your pet cool and safe by following our tips to prevent them from developing a heat-related injury. For additional pet care tips, check out our Providence Vet team’s blog posts and our curated veterinary resources library. Remember, if your pet is experiencing a heat-related emergency, contact Providence Vet immediately, or bring them to your nearest emergency veterinary hospital for after-hours care.