Pet Health: Keeping pets cool and healthy in the summertime

Healthy Living

Beautiful weather encourages us to be outside, and many animal owners want their pets to be a part of the summer fun. Whether or not you’re planning a family getaway, or your pet just spends more time outside in the warmer weather, summer pet safety and preventing heat stroke is a very real concern.

Unlike most people, pets are skilled at hiding discomfort, and you may not know your pet is overheating until it’s too late.

Pets that develop heat stroke, a condition where the body’s core temperature elevates dangerously, can act relatively normal until disaster strikes.

“Every year we have a sad story of a pet that has heat stroke,” Tom Carpenter, DVM, AAHA President 2007-2008, told the AAHA. “I am a marathon runner and have a friend who was out running with his black lab on a warm day. Of course, there was no end to this dog’s enthusiasm. The lab started to pant and stagger and he was fortunate that a passing car saw him to help. They put his dog into the car and rushed to the veterinary hospital, where he was treated for heat stroke. Fortunately, this story ended happily.”

Symptoms of Heat Stroke in Pets

Signs of heat stroke include:

  • Extreme panting
  • Excessive salivating
  • Staggering
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Keeping pets cool in the summer is an important step in preventing heat stroke. After all, prevention is invaluable when compared to the cost of a veterinary emergency.

Summer Pet Safety

Don’t Keep Your Pet in a Parked Car
According to  the Animal Health Foundation (AHF), in 10 minutes, the temperature inside a car rises by 19 degrees. After 20 minutes, the temperature spikes by 29 degrees. At 30 minutes it goes up 34 degrees, and after an hour, the temperature soars by 43 degrees.  What’s more, certain interior materials can become so hot they burn your pet’s skin. In very hot temperatures, leaving the window cracked is not enough. If you can’t take your pet with you where you are going, or you can’t leave the air conditioning on, leave your pet at home.

Dog in a kiddie pool cooling off to prevent heat stroke

Give Your Pet Plenty of Access to Water
Access to water in hot temperatures doesn’t just mean drinking water, though pets will drink more in warmer temperatures. Animals should have the option to cool off in sprinklers or kiddie pools. Ice cubes can also be added to a pet’s water bowl to cool the liquid and offer an amusing toy for some pets. Hosing down some pets can be an option, but never hose a pet from a hose sitting in the hot sun. If you don’t let the water cycle through, it can be hot enough to burn your pet’s skin. If your pet doesn’t enjoy water (cat owners!) make sure ample shade is available.

Don’t Rely on a Fan
Animals do not handle heat in the same way humans do, and a fan may feel nice to them, but it isn’t actually cooling them down, according to materials from the Humane Society. “It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet,” says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.” Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body.”

Limit Exercise on Hot Days
Again, pets are experts at hiding discomfort, so limit your pet’s activity on hot days so they don’t work themselves into exhaustion.

Overall Advice for Summer Pet Safety

Knowing the signs of heat stroke, and taking a preventative approach, are extremely important in the fight to keep pets cool in the summer, but the best rule of thumb is: If you shouldn’t be outside, your pet shouldn’t be either.

“Just think — our pets are furrier than us, and they don’t process heat as well as we do,” explained Jessica Almeida, transfer director at the Humane Society of Utah, to The Humane Society. “So if it’s too hot for you to be hanging outside, it’s probably too hot for your dog.”

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