How to Beat the Heat with Your Furry Friend
On June 20th we will celebrate the official start of the summer season and there will be many different opportunities to enjoy the sunshine. From barbeques to trips to the park to walks around the block, it’s even more enjoyable with your furry friend by your side. When you’re out enjoying the summer heat it’s extremely important to find ways to keep cool and stay hydrated to avoid overheating. Did you know that your dog and cat can also experience heat stroke? As their caregivers it is important for us to be conscious of what they might be going through, and to do what we can to prevent them from getting too warm in the first place.
What is Heat Stroke?
Normal body temperature for dogs and cats sits right around 101.5°F. When playing out in the sun, not drinking enough fresh water, or sitting in a car, dog’s and cat’s temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. A body temperature of 103°F is the point where corrective measures may need to be taken. If the body temperature reaches 105°F it is a true emergency and vet care is warranted.
Who is at risk?
Animals outside enjoying the summer weather if there is not adequate shade are at risk for developing heat stroke. If they go on a walk, or to the dog park, that exercise can also cause their body temperature to rise. Heat stroke does not always happen from directly being outside. There are many cases each year from dogs being left in vehicles. You’ve maybe seen some of the vehicle horror stories circulating on social media over the years, but it is a very real thing. According to a study done at Stanford University Medical Center, a vehicle’s temperature can raise 40° in one hour. So even on a day that feels cooler, inside that vehicle can still be fatally warm.
What Should we be Watching For
Because dogs and cats don’t sweat like you or I do they have other ways of cooling themselves down. The first sign that you will likely see is panting. But wait, my dog pants all the time, how will I know if it’s something to be concerned about? Excellent question, because panting is often normal, we need to look for other signs as well. Do they seem agitated? Does their skin feel warm? Do they seem weak, uncoordinated, or extremely tired? Are they vomiting, or having diarrhea? Do they seem to have a difficult time breathing? Are they drooling? Are their gums blue or bright red? If you notice any of these warning signs please have them seen by a veterinarian. If left untreated the elevated body temperature can move on to damaging organ systems and recovery can become much more difficult.
How can we Prevent it?
- Keeping environmental conditions under control can be a huge help. When enjoying the outdoors, try to find a spot that has a decent amount of shade. You can also have an umbrella handy to make your own shade if needed. If inside, have the air conditioner or fan running. You can even apply ice packs to their armpit and groin to help cool them down. Do you have tile floor? Also a great place for them to cool down. And please don’t leave them in your car. If you’re going somewhere where they can’t come inside with you, it’s better if they just stay home.
- Water!!! Make sure there is access to cool fresh water at all times. On hot summer days the water will evaporate quickly so frequent refills may be needed. Also, water is not always for drinking. Kid swimming pools are great for dogs and cats (if your cat likes water) to cool off in. If you don’t have a swimming pool you can wet a bandana or a scarf with cool water and tie it, not too tightly, around their neck. When it dries out simply rewet and retie. Many dogs also enjoy “pupsicles.” Throw a couple of treats and a ball of theirs into a bowl with water and freeze it, bring it out on hot days and watch them go to town.
- Take breaks. Avoid spending an extended amount of time outside to allow them a chance to cool down.
- Haircuts and regular grooming can also help to keep their temperature down in the summer. This does not necessarily mean shaving them down, talk to your groomer about getting your pet’s beach hair ready.
- Go shopping. At your favorite store you will likely be able to find cooling mats, or cooling collars, amongst other things for your companions.
Word of Caution
When trying to cool your pet down it is easy to overcool them. Also, please do not force them to drink, make sure they have access to water should they show interest. And do not leave them unattended. If you’ve had an exciting day outside monitor them closely for any signs of hyperthermia. If there is any question in your mind as to whether or not they are too warm please seek immediate veterinary care.
Vin Emergency Staff https://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=366, V. (Ed.).
2015, June 02). Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke, Heat Prostration). Retrieved June 08, 2017, from