Summer is in full swing here, and the extreme heat it brings can pose health risks for people and pets alike. Pets are especially vulnerable because they cannot regulate their body temperature as well as people can. Pets pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs and rid their body of excess heat. On hot, humid days, they can struggle to cool themselves, and their body temperature can reach a dangerous level. All pets can develop heatstroke, a serious condition that occurs when they become overheated and that can cause organ shutdown and cardiac arrest. To avoid a heat-related pet emergency this summer, our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team shares four common summer scenarios that could lead to overheating in pets and tips to keep pets cool.
Scenario #1: Peggy the pug goes for a walk
Peggy, a 5-year-old pug, lives for her daily walks. Her owner works at home and takes Peggy out for her walk on his lunch break. On today’s walk, Peggy starts to pant and walks more slowly than usual.
Safety summary: Daily exercise is important, but Peggy’s owner should consider changing their walking schedule to avoid the midday heat. The coolest parts of the day—and the ideal times to walk—are early morning or late evening. “Flat-faced” (i.e., brachycephalic) breeds like Peggy have a harder time panting and cooling themselves, increasing their risk of heatstroke. Peggy’s owner should keep her walks short and monitor her closely for signs of overheating, including:
- Heavy panting
- Red gums
- Rapid breathing and fast heart rate
- Dull or distant look
- Lethargy and weakness
Scenario #2: Rex the retriever cools off at the pool
Rex is a 2-year-old retriever who lives up to his name. One of his favorite activities is retrieving his tennis ball from his family’s backyard pool. Rex is an athletic pup and a strong swimmer, and on hot days, his owner allows him to swim while she works inside the house.
Safety summary: A dip in the pool is a great way for people and pets to cool off. However, a pet should always be supervised when they’re in the pool, regardless of their athletic ability. Pets who love the water may continue to swim even if they become tired, which can be dangerous. Consider purchasing a life jacket for your pet if they are not a confident swimmer, suffer from arthritis, or tire easily. If you have a backyard pool, ensure it is secured with a fence, gate, and cover.
Scenario #3: Chip the Chihuahua rides in the car
Chip is an 8-year-old Chihuahua who loves to go for car rides with his owner. His owner even installed a booster car seat for Chip so he can look out the window. Chip thinks there’s no better feeling than watching the world go by with the car’s air conditioner blasting. On today’s car ride, Chip’s owner decides he needs to run into the store for a carton of milk. It will only take a few minutes, and he plans to park in the shade and leave the windows cracked.
Safety summary: Never leave pets in a parked car, no matter how quick the errand. The interior of a car can reach 110 degrees in 20 minutes on an 80-degree day, and parking in the shade and cracking windows will not provide relief for pets.
Scenario #4: Tina the terrier plays in the yard
Tina is a 6-month-old terrier, with beautiful white fur. Her family recently moved into a new house, and the backyard hasn’t been landscaped yet. Her owner planted a small tree, but other than that, the yard is bare. Tina has a lot of puppy energy and enjoys playing in her backyard.
Safety summary: Tina’s sparse backyard reduces her access to shade. To keep from overheating outside during the summer, pets should have access to shade, ventilation, and fresh water. Remember that as the sun moves, so does the shade, and while pets may be in a perfect oasis at 9 a.m., they will be in full sun by 11 a.m.
Summer offers many opportunities for fun with your pet, and, by taking simple precautions against the heat, you can enjoy your time together safely. If you have additional questions about heat safety for pets, contact our team at Westerville Veterinary Clinic.