Protecting Your Pet from the Heat of Summer
In preparation for Summer, it is helpful to know the dangers of exposing your pet to hot temperatures in order to take the necessary precautions to keep your pet safe. Whether your pet stays indoors or outdoors, they can experience the effects of the hot temperatures so it’s best to be prepared. It is also a good idea to know the symptoms of heat stress so that you can act quickly if your pet starts to experience them.
Your pet is safest indoors on hot days. When they are lounging in the house, make sure they have access to water at all times. The area that the pet is staying in should be cool, so we recommend keeping the air conditioner on or having a fan on the room to keep air circulating. Some pets stay in the garage while their owner is away; make sure that the garage gets sufficient air movement.
If you plan to take your pet outdoors, there a few things you can do to keep your pet safe. Make sure that shade is available for your pet to protect them from the sun’s rays. Make sure they have plenty of access to cool water (keeping ice cubes in the water bowl can help with that). When you plan to take your pet for a walk, try to walk them in the early morning or late evening when the temperatures are cooler to avoid heatstroke and scalding on paws from the hot pavement. Place your palm on the walking surface for about 10 seconds; if you can’t handle the heat from the surface, either walk your pet in the grass or wait until the temperature cools down.
During the summer months, it’s not a good idea to leave your pet in your vehicle. Even if your vehicle is in the shade or the windows are cracked, your pet can still quickly overheat. According to the study done in “Heat Stress from Enclosed Vehicles”, leaving the windows open slightly does not slow the heating process or decrease the maximum temperature attained inside the vehicle. In the study, the temperature was measured over a 60 minute period on 16 different clear sunny days with surrounding temperatures ranging from 72°F to 94°F. On two of the days, the measurements were made with the windows cracked one and a half inches. The study found that the cracked windows did not decrease the rate of temperature rise inside the vehicle. The majority of the temperature rise in both closed windows and cracked windows occurred in the first 15 to 30 minutes as well. On days when the temperature was 72°F, the internal temperature could reach 117°F within 60 minutes.
Some pets can handle the heat better than others based on their breed, health, and age. Brachycephalic, or short-nosed, breeds of dogs aren’t able to pant as efficiently has those with longer faces; therefore they are more susceptible to heat stroke. Some examples of short-nosed dogs are Pugs, Bulldogs, and Pekingese. Cats can also be brachycephalic; some examples are Persians and Himalayans. Pets that are really young or really old aren’t usually able to tolerate the hot weather as well as other cats and dogs. If your pet is sick or has health issues, such as heart or respiratory diseases, they also should be monitored closely during the hot months.
If you believe your pet may be suffering from heat stress there are a few signs you can watch for. If your pet has been in the heat and you start to notice excessive panting, excessive drooling, restlessness, anxiousness, abnormal gum and tongue color, vomiting, or collapse, you should speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible; your pet may be experiencing heat stroke. Until you are able to seek help from your veterinarian, you can apply towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of your pet’s body; be sure not to use ice water as you may cause more damage. You can also try to get your pet’s face near a fan or in front of an air conditioner in an attempt to cool them down.
While having fun in the summer sun, keep a close eye on your pet’s behavior for signs of heat stress. If you feel your pet may be experiencing heat stress or heat stroke, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian. Make sure to always have water readily accessible and shade nearby; your pet will thank you!
Miranda Brown, CSR
Banfield Pet Hospital: https://www.banfield.com/pet-healthcare/additional-resources/article-library/safety-tips/watch-out-for-heatstroke-in-your-pet
McLaren C, Null J and Quinn J. Heat stress from enclosed vehicles: moderate ambient temperatures cause significant temperature rise in enclosed vehicles. Pediatrics 2005; 116: e109-e112.