The days are longer, the kids are out of school, and you are eager to get out and enjoy the summer with your two and four-legged friends. But before you break out the running shoes and head into the heat with your pet, consider some crucial safety information. Help prevent a heat-related injury with the following important facts:
1: Heatstroke progresses rapidly and can be fatal
Heatstroke, defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a life-threatening condition marked especially by… extremely high body temperature, and collapse that results from prolonged exposure to high temperature” is a serious problem for pets. Most animals have minimal sweat glands, which means they must dissipate heat by panting. When panting isn’t enough, the core body temperature can quickly rise to dangerous levels of 104 degrees and higher. Signs of heatstroke include:
- Excessive panting
- Unwillingness to move
- Red gums
Collapse is the final sign of heatstroke in a pet, and death can quickly follow. These signs should never be taken lightly, and your pet should be brought to the nearest emergency clinic immediately if you suspect he is overheated.
Prevent heatstroke from happening by exercising your pet early in the morning rather than in the middle of the afternoon. Always allow your pet free access to fresh water and a shaded area, if outdoors.
2: Some animals are more susceptible to heat exhaustion than others
Certain breeds of dogs and cats are especially sensitive to higher temperatures. These include the “flat-faced” or brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and Persian and Himalayan cats. Given their shorter airways and narrow nostrils, breathing is generally more difficult for these animals. Placing them in hot and humid conditions further exacerbates this and affects their ability to dissipate heat. Geriatric and obese animals also tend to be more sensitive to the heat than their younger, leaner counterparts. If your furry friend fits into one of these categories, it’s best to keep him indoors on a hot day.
3: The interior of a car can reach extreme temperatures
Contrary to popular belief, cracking a window does little to change the interior temperature of a car on a warm day. Even on a 70-degree day, the inside of a car can reach 100 degrees in only 20 minutes! For more information, view this chart from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), which estimates the interior temperature of a car over time. If you must bring your pet with you on an outing, do so responsibly. Never leave your pet in the car, even for just a few minutes. If at all possible, leave pets safely at home on warm days.
4: Your pet’s paw pads can easily burn on the hot ground
Paw pads are uniquely built to withstand some wear and tear. That being said, we need to help protect them as best we can. Just as with the interior of a car, asphalt (and other surfaces) can reach extreme temperatures quite rapidly. If forced to walk or run on the hot pavement, our pets can suffer from painful blisters and burns. Check the pavement before walking your dog by placing your open palm on the surface for 7 to 10 seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet. If you suspect your pet has suffered an injury to his paw pads, contact our veterinary team. Do not place any topical products on your pet’s wounds without consulting your veterinarian.
5: A pet’s fur acts as a protectant in the heat
While it is OK to clip your dog or cat’s long fur in the summer months, refrain from shaving your pet. An animal’s fur acts as insulation, helping him stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The underlayer also protects your pet from sunburn. Shaving will rob your pet of these protective factors. Most animals will lighten their coats naturally as the weather warms, and you can aid this process with plenty of brushing. If you are set on having your pet’s hair clipped, consider hiring a professional groomer to get the job done right.
Our pets are especially sensitive to higher temperatures, making them susceptible to potentially serious and life-threatening heat-related conditions. If you believe your pet has suffered a heat-related injury, or if you have further questions about heat safety, don’t hesitate to contact us.