When temperatures and humidity levels soar, a simple outing with a beloved pet can quickly turn into a battle for their life. During Michigan’s hot summer months, heatstroke seriously threatens people and pets. Our team at Pierson Pet Hospital shares the three E’s—exertion, exposure, and entrapment—that owners need to know, to keep their pets cool and comfortable this summer.
#1: Exertion and pets
Everything you do outside in the heat with your pet requires special awareness and watchfulness.
- Keep exercise short and sweet — You probably have a daily routine with your dog that includes a nice long walk around the neighborhood, a jog around the lake, or a round of fetch in the park. Physical activity is important to your dog’s health, but make adjustments based on temperature and humidity. Some ways to change your routine include:
- Choosing the best time of day — Exercise your dog during the early morning or late evening, to avoid the midday heat.
- Taking less time — Shorten your walk, and take frequent water breaks.
- Watching your pet carefully — Watch for signs of overheating, such as excessive panting or discomfort.
- Taking it easier — Avoid strenuous outdoor aerobic activities, like running and fetch.
- Determine your dog’s heatstroke risk — All dogs can suffer heatstroke, but some are at greater risk. If your pet falls into one of the following categories, monitor them closely, and be ready to act quickly if they display signs of overheating:
- Young dogs — These pups are a lot like the Energizer Bunny—they keep going and going. They often don’t know their body’s limitations, and rarely stop for a break on their own, increasing their risk of overexertion and heatstroke.
- Senior pets — Risk increases with age, and dogs over 12 years of age are more vulnerable to overheating.
- Overweight dogs — Extra layers of fat insulate overweight dogs and make cooling down harder.
- Thick-coated dog breeds — The double coats of breeds like chows and golden retrievers also insulate, trap hot air, and limit heat loss. You may be tempted to shave your dog’s coat, but always leave at least an inch of hair to protect their skin from the sun’s rays. Better yet—leave it to the pros. Pierson Pet Hospital’s grooming professionals provide summer cuts that look and feel great but also provide optimal sun protection.
- Short, flat-faced breeds — Flat-nosed (i.e., brachycephalic) dog breeds, such as bulldogs, boxers, and pugs, struggle with heat regulation, and are less efficient at self-cooling through panting. They can easily overheat, and require close monitoring in the heat.
#2: Exposure and pets
Prolonged exposure to extremely hot environments is another common cause of heatstroke.
- Keep it quick — Keep pets inside with the air-conditioning, if possible. If your dog does go outside, ensure they have access to fresh, cool water and shade.
- Create cool dog treats — Freeze water-rich foods in ice cube trays for a special treat. The following fruits and vegetables make delicious dog-safe “pupsicles:”
- Sweet potatoes
- Protect those paws — Before walking with your dog, place your hand on the pavement. If you cannot keep your hand there comfortably for 10 seconds, the pavement is too hot and could burn your dog’s paw pads. Wait until a cooler time of day, or walk on the grass.
#3: Entrapment and pets
If you are thinking of running to the store for a few minutes while your dog waits in the car—think again!
- Love your pet by leaving them home — Parking your vehicle in the shade, leaving water inside, or cracking the windows is not enough for your pet who is inside. In only minutes, the temperature inside a parked car skyrockets to dangerous levels. It’s always safer to leave pets at home.
Heatstroke in pets: Know the signs
Once your pet begins to overheat, heatstroke progresses quickly. Recognizing the signs and acting quickly can save your dog from long-term complications, or death. The most common heatstroke signs in dogs include:
- Red gums
- Rapid breathing and fast heart rate
- Looking dull or distant
- Lethargy and weakness
Heatstroke in pets: Act fast
If your pet displays any heatstroke signs, quickly follow these steps:
- Move them to a cool environment, provide water to drink, and place them in a cool—never cold—bath.
- Remove them from the cool water when their body temperature goes down to 103 degrees, and dry them off.
- Go to Pierson Pet Hospital or the nearest veterinarian, especially if their temperature and heatstroke signs do not improve in 10 minutes, or they collapse or become unconscious. However, pets should always be checked by a veterinarian after a heat-stress event, because organ damage that is not immediately evident may occur.
As you plan your summer adventures, keep your pets in mind. Remember our “3 E’s”—exertion, exposure, and entrapment—as you prepare for the heat, to ensure your pet stays cool and content. If you have questions about keeping your pets safe this summer, or need help during a heat-related emergency, give Pierson Pet Hospital a call.
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