The following article is courtesy of our partner, Banfield Pet Hospital. Used with permission.
As the temperature heats up in most parts of the country, unique dangers to your pet present themselves. Hopefully you already know about summer safety basics, such as not overexerting your pet, providing plenty of water and not leaving your pet in your car.
Pets are unable to sweat all over their bodies like people can. They rely completely upon panting (to get rid of hot air and inhale cool air) to cool themselves. Some sweating occurs through their foot pads and nose, but this is insufficient to effectively cool them. These differences in pets make them especially prone to heatstroke during hot, humid weather. There is no critical temperature to avoid, since heatstroke can occur at even lower environmental temperatures if the humidity is very high.
What you might not be aware of is what to do if your pet suffers from a common heat-induced condition called heatstroke. According to our veterinarians, heatstroke is a medical emergency and life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention!
Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Excessive or exaggerated panting
- High fever
- Dark red gums
- Rapid heartbeat
- Unresponsiveness to commands and surroundings
- Staring/anxious expression
- Warm/dry skin
It is imperative to get the pet to a doctor immediately as permanent damage to organs including the heart, liver, kidneys and brain can occur. There is also a complex blood problem, called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), which can be a secondary complication to heatstroke and can be fatal.
If you do take your pet outside for exercise, play or a walk, make sure she has plenty of access to cool water, shaded areas and rest. It is never recommended to leave your pet outside on hot days. Even if your pet has access to shaded areas, she can easily become overheated.
During hot weather, it is especially important to be cautious with short-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds such as Pugs, Shi Tzus, Pekingese, Bulldogs and Boxers, who have shorter faces or noses. These breeds are especially prone to suffering from heatstroke as they aren’t able to pant as efficiently as dogs with longer faces.
Some cats are more susceptible than others, too, such as short-nosed breeds (Persians and exotics), young and old cats, overweight cats and cats with airway disease. Be aware that a pet can get heatstroke while swimming and even the most athletic breeds and dogs who are very fit can suffer from heatstroke.
Very old or very young pets and sick or debilitated pets, especially pets with heart or respiratory disease, are at even great risk for heatstroke and need extra special consideration during the hot months. Even pets who are used to being outside may not be able to tolerate the hot weather if they are sick or getting older.
In addition to not overexerting your pet, not walking her during the middle of the day or leaving her in your car on a hot day, don’t chain your pet in the sun on hot concrete or asphalt. Pets can burn their paw pads on hot asphalt, rock or sand very easily during very hot weather. Never leave a muzzle on a dog during hot weather as the pet may not be able to pant freely while wearing it.
If your pet will be indoors on a hot day, give her access to water and a cool area. Keep an air conditioner or fan on. It is particularly important not to confine her to any room where temperatures are especially high (a sunroom, for example). In certain parts of the country even a closed garage can be too hot if there is insufficient air movement.
Keeping your pet’s temperature at a normal level
If you suspect heatstroke, head straight for the veterinarian’s office! While on your way, you can help lower your pet’s body temperature into the normal range by applying towels soaked in cool water or rubbing alcohol to the hairless areas of the pet’s body, especially your pet’s feet (do not use ice water). Place the pet face near a fan if possible.