With the heat of summer now upon us, below are several important tips to keep your pet healthy and safe.

Never, Ever Leave your Pet in the Car
Like children, under no circumstance should a pet ever be left in a car unattended — even if the windows remain open. Studies have demonstrated on a sunny day the temperature within a car can approach 120 degrees within 20 minutes when the outdoor temperature is only 80. Due to the excessive heat your pet may experience heat exhaustion, organ failure or even death. Besides harming your pet, you could be exposed to fines and criminal penalties given local laws. In fact, if the outdoor temperature is above 85 degrees, we recommend leaving your pet at home.

Understand your Pet’s Physiology
In addition to having fur, dogs and cats do not have sweat glands like we do. Our sweat glands enable our entire body to be cooled through the evaporation of perspiration from our skin. Dogs and cats only have sweat glands where they have no fur — including their nose, anus and bottom of their feet (which is why you can see where they walked on cold tile or wood floors). As a result, their ability to cool down comes primarily though the evaporative cooling from their exhaled moisture — or panting. Given their physiology, it’s vital that you understand how to help keep your pet cool and recognize potentially dangerous over-heating situations during these hot summer months.

Give your Pets Plenty of Water
Essential to keeping your pet cool is access to plenty of water as it helps lower body temperature and avoid dehydration. On hot days, cool water should always be available enabling your pets to remain fully hydrated. After exercise, pets should be given cool water in moderate amounts — to prevent gorging which could result in bloat requiring emergency intervention including life-saving surgery.

Importance of Water and Hydration

Provide your Pet Plenty of Shade
Enabling your pet to obtain shelter from sun is one of the most important methods to help your pet regulate their body temperature. Within your home, ensure shades are at least partially drawn in sun-filled rooms and never allow your pet to remain outside without direct access to an awning, shade tree or pet house (and water, of course).

Exercise your Pet Early in the Morning or Late in the Evening
During the summer and particularly during days of prolonged high temperatures, it’s vital that your pet complete its daily exercise routines before 10AM or after 6PM — when the temperature and heat index are lower. The earlier or later these activities are conducted the better.

During heat waves, it’s vital that your pet forgo strenuous activities to prevent them from overheating or being struck by heat exhaustion. Be aware that high humidity has a profound negative impact upon your pet’s ability to cool down and regulate their body temperature.

While walking or exercising, be sure to consider the temperature of the sidewalks and paved areas as these surfaces tend to absorb heat and can burn your pet’s feet. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet’s feet.

When walking or exercising your pet, carry water with you to ensure an ample supply of water.

Know and Look for Signs of Heat Exhaustion or "Heat Stroke"
Just like people, pets can be adversely impacted by strenuous activity during hot, warm or humid days. Pets experiencing signs of heat exhaustion have lost the ability of the body to regulate their body temperature. Key signs include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Reddened gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Chapped or dry nose
  • Skin/fur hot to the touch
  • Production of dark, little or no urine
  • Heightened body temperature (above 103° F)
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking or muscle tremor
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Unconsciousness

If you believe your pet may be experiencing signs of heat stroke, please contact us immediately. It is vital that you begin to stabilize and reduce your pet’s body temperate before tissue, organs or the brain become affected.

Cooling Down Your Pet

Know how to Cool Down your Pet in an Emergency

If you believe your pet is overheating, it’s vital that they cease physical activity and you relocate them to a cool, shaded location — ideally in the home. Please immediately call us.

Depending upon their condition, it may be essential that you begin cooling your pet by applying wet towels, pouring water over their body using an outdoor hose, or carefully placing them in the tub as it fills with cool (not cold) water. Be sure to keep your pet’s head, mouth and nose out of the water as you monitor their breathing. You should also place ice packs or packages of frozen vegetables on their head to help reduce temperatures and avoid cranial swelling. During this cool down process, take your pet’s temperature every five minutes and allow them to drink as much water as they desire. You may also consider rubbing their legs to promote circulation and reduce the risk of shock.

When transporting your pet to the veterinarian, ensure your vehicle’s air conditioning is on and/or the windows are open while you securely monitor and reassure your pet.

Know your Pet

You are your pet’s first line of defense. It’s up to you to monitor your pet’s activities ensuring their play, activity and environment remain safe during the hot summer months. As a reminder, some pets are more susceptible to heat-related issues, including: 

  • Highly active pets
  • Younger, older or overweight pets
  • Pets with respiratory issues (including breeds with shortened noses such as Boxers, Bulldogs, Pekingese or Shih-Tzus)
  • Pets with double coats or dark fur
  • Any pet that was previously stricken with heat stroke or often requires additional time to cool down

We are Here for You and Your Pet

With dedicated doctors trained at the best veterinary schools, please contact us immediately if you believe your pet might be impacted by heat-related issues.

Kirkwood Veterinarians
Kirkwood Staff

The entire team at Kirkwood Animal Hospital is wholly dedicated to maintaining the health and wellness of your pet — keeping the entire family happy.