With the summer months now upon us, it’s vital that you know the impact heat can have upon your pet. As temperatures rise, so do the health risks from summer’s heat.

Dogs Playing
Never Leave a Pet in the Car
Under no circumstance should a pet ever be left in a car unattended — even if the car is running and the air conditioning is on — or the windows are left open. Cars run out of gas, air conditioners can stop working, fans can stop turning, and winds can stop blowing — leaving your pet in potentially a deadly situation.

In fact, per California Penal Code 597.7, it is illegal to leave an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that would endanger the health or well-being of the animal. A violation can result in a misdemeanor or even jail time.

Scientific studies have demonstrated on a sunny day the temperature within a car can approach 120 degrees within minutes when the outdoor temperature is only 80. Due to the excessive temperature, your pet may experience heat exhaustion, organ failure or even death. In fact, if the outdoor temperature is above 85 degrees, we recommend leaving your pet at home.

Our Pets are Different
Unlike humans, our pets do not have sweat glands on large expanses of bare skin that produce an evaporative cooling effect — which is how we primarily control our own body temperature in the summer. Our pets have one or two coats of fur and very few sweat glands, primarily located on their feet, nose, and anus.

So, our pet’s keep cool by panting — rapidly exhaling hot, moist air. So, it’s important to recognize when your pet is unable to cool down via panting which can be exhibited by very rapid, uncontrolled breathing and may be accompanied by coughing or excessive saliva secretions. In these situations, your pet may be in danger of heat exhaustion and proactive measures must be taken immediately.

Provide Plenty of Water
Access to plenty of cool, clear water is essential to help lower body temperature and avoid dehydration. On hot days, cool (not ice-cold) water should always be available enabling your pets to remain fully hydrated. During exercise, it’s up to you to offer your pet water to keep them from becoming dehydrated. And 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.

Providing Dogs Water
Provide Plenty of Shade
Enabling your pet to obtain shelter from the 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).

Make Smart Exercising Decisions
During the summer and particularly during days of high temperatures, it’s vital that your pet complete their 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 the warmest days, it’s vital that your pet forgo strenuous activities to prevent them from succumbing to heat exhaustion. Consider indoor activities such as tug-o-war or hide-and-seek to keep them entertained. Please be aware that high humidity has a profound negative impact upon your pet’s ability to cool down and regulate their body temperature.

After exercising, allow your pet to gradually wind down their physical activities via a brisk walk followed by a slow walk and then a sitting rest. This will allow your pet’s heart rate and breathing to slowly return to normal — and allow time for your pet’s muscles to cool down. If your pet needs to immediately sit, monitor their breathing to ensure they are comfortable and not in distress.

When exercising your pet, carry water with you — and do not rely on access to public water sources as they tend to be overused or unavailable during the hottest days. And be proactive, offering your pet water frequently — even before they seek it.

Look for Signs of Heat Exhaustion
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 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
  • Non-responsiveness

If you believe your pet may be experiencing signs of heat exhaustion, 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.

Hot Dog
Know how to Cool Down your Pet in an Emergency
If you believe your pet may be overheating, it’s vital to cease physical activity and get them to a cool, shaded location — and 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.

Protect Your Pet
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

Happy Dog
Contact Us
With dedicated doctors trained at the best veterinary schools, please contact us if your pet may be exhibiting heat-related symptoms.