As the weather heats up after the long winter, we need to make sure we keep our pets safe from overheating and heatstroke.
Everyone knows that they should not leave their pets in the car. Although it may be tempting to leave a pet in the car for “just a minute,” one should never give in to the temptation. Vehicles in the summer can heat up incredibly quickly. If you do see an animal in a car, try to locate the owner by having an announcement made at nearby businesses or call the local police and/or animal control.
Pets should always have free access to fresh water in the summer. Activities, such as play and walks, should be conducted early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the hottest part of day. Make sure there is access to shade and water, and take frequent breaks.
Special care should be taken with brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds as well as young, old, or obese pets. Dogs cool themselves primarily though panting. Breeds like pugs and bulldogs are much less efficient at cooling themselves and should be encouraged to take it easy during hot and humid days. Brachycephalic cats (like Persians), as well as the old, young or obese can also have more difficulty keeping cool in warm weather.
Signs of heatstroke start with a pet who appears distressed. They will often look uncomfortable and will profusely pant. Excessive salivation and/or drool is a sign that heatstroke is progressing. Ataxia (a lack of coordination), confusion, and a change in the color of the gums are all signs that your pet is already quite ill. Vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures may also be seen.
If you notice these signs, take your pet to a cooler place. Get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible! If you are outdoors, move to the shade. A fan, if available, may help cool your pet. Cool, wet towels in the groin or armpits can help cool your pet as well. Avoid cold or ice water. This can cause blood vessels to contract and may actually trap heat inside your pet. Avoid overcooling your pet, as this can cause the body to try to make itself warm again in response to the quick drop in temperature.
Heat stroke can progress quite rapidly and result in life threatening complications. Doing your best to prevent heatstroke before it happens is the best way to keep your pets safe!