Protecting Pets from Summer Heat
Summer time in Texas means more time to play outside, go swimming, and soak up the sun. However, warmer temperatures also mean that pets may be more susceptible to heat exhaustion or heat stroke As temperatures are increasingly high this week, it is vital to take the necessary precautions to protect pets from heat exhaustion.To help pet owners avoid these risks, Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offered some insight.
Although there is not a set temperature that is considered too hot for animals, temperatures in the high-80s and above can pose problems for pets, Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) said. Every pet is different, however, on the temperature they can endure. Cats, for example, are usually more tolerant of the heat than dogs and can often find a shady place to lounge.
She added that, generally, if it is too hot for the pet owner to be outside, it is too hot for the pet. “Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are major problems for pets in the summer, especially in short nosed breeds, such as a pug or a bulldog,” Eckman said. “These conditions can occur during hot and humid days and even cooler days, if your pets aren’t accustomed to the heat.”
“It is very dependent on the pet itself. For example, overweight dogs and brachycephalic (short nosed dogs such as bulldogs) are at a greater risk for heat stroke/exhaustion for even short period of times in warm weather,” Eckman said. Eckman said other dogs that have a higher chance of heat exhaustion are those genetically sensitive to the heat and those not acclimated to the heat such as indoor dogs. Both dogs with long, thick coats and those with short, thin coats can become overheated so she recommended taking precautions for all types of dogs.
She explained that even dogs who exercise vigorously can become overheated.
“The perfect example of this is a dog who goes to the dog park on a nice, warm, spring day when they have not [been] all winter, and they play [with a] Frisbee [disk] and run more than normal,” Eckman said. She added that this was a common case of heat exhaustion. “Dogs cool themselves by panting and this can dehydrate them, so they will need more water than you may think,” Eckman said.
Eckman said, generally, the first symptoms of heat exhaustion are lethargy and listlessness.She added that if pets are outside for too long and become overheated, they can develop diarrhea and vomiting which could lead to shock.
Heat exhaustion is the early stages of a heat stroke and causes lethargy, vomiting, and weakness. Following continued exercise or exposure to heat, Eckman said a heat stroke can occur with more severe signs, including extreme lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and pale mucous membranes. This can lead significant problems up to and including death if not recognized and treated immediately.
If a pet has these symptoms, Eckman recommended taking him/her to a veterinarian immediately for a diagnosis and treatment. She stressed not to put cold water or ice packs on the animal because it makes it harder for them to cool off.
Though it may seem like a quick-fix to put your pet in cold water if they do become overheated, Eckman said it is best to slowly cool down your pet to avoid causing more internal heat.
“Some people will try to provide ice water baths for overheated pets; this can actually make them retain heat internally,” Eckman said. “Instead, bring the overheated pet inside and provide them with cool
water and a fan. Wetting a towel and putting it on the pet’s coat also may be helpful.”
Other dangers pets may face in the summer heat include paw pad burns from walking on hot concrete. If your dog is going to be active outside when it is hot, be sure to keep them off concrete or asphalt for extended periods of time. You can also provide your pet with other means of exercise, such as playing indoors or in the grass.
Eckman added that leaving pets in the car or bed of a truck is also a bad idea. This can also lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
“Even if there is a breeze outside, there is no shade or water in the bed of a truck, so the temperature can really heat up,” Eckman said.
Other tips for keeping your pet cool during the summer include providing a dog house, a shallow kiddie pool, and enough cool water. Also, try to exercise your pet during the cooler parts of the day, such as the morning or evening
Whether your pet lives primarily indoors or outdoors, it is important to protect your pet from the heat this summer season.
Adapted by Jessica Rymel, Cass County Agrilife Extension Agent
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