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Keeping Your Pets Safe in Summer Heat

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Susan Meeking, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC
Garden State Veterinary Specialists


As the temperatures soar this summer it is important to keep your pets safe from heat-related injuries. While any pet is susceptible to heat stroke, dogs are more likely than other pets to experience heat stroke as they are more often traveling in cars and playing outside for extended periods of time. Severity of heat-related illness can vary, from mild heat cramps (which is likely undetectable in pets), through heat exhaustion, heat prostration, and finally the most severe, and often fatal, heat stroke.

The major mechanism for coping with excessive body temperature in dogs is evaporative loss through the respiratory tract, seen as panting. Some dogs are more susceptible to heat-related illness due to their conformation, pre-existing medical conditions, and medications. The most commonly affected dogs are overweight dogs and dogs with short, pushed in noses such as bulldogs, pugs, boxers, and some Mastiffs. In addition, any dog with a respiratory condition may be unable to dissipate heat normally, which increases their chances of heat stroke. Initial signs are vague but can include excessive salivation and panting, lethargy, dark red gums, and progress to vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, coma, and death. Core temperatures can exceed 110 degrees in severe cases of heat stroke.

The most important aspect of treating heat injury is cooling the pet. This can begin at home where the pet can be soaked in cool (not cold) water prior to transport to a veterinary hospital for further emergency medical care. Early cooling can make all the difference in severity of complications and survival in many cases. It is important to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian if they have exhibited signs of heat stroke, even if they seem better after being cooled at home, as they can have serious delayed complications.

Tips for preventing heat stroke in pets:
- Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle. Temperatures can climb to well over 100 degrees within minutes. Report any pets seen unattended in vehicles to the local police or humane society immediately
- Ensure your pet has adequate shade and fresh water at all times when outdoors in warm weather
- Avoid exercise with your pet during the hottest hours of the day
- Consider cooling your pet periodically with cool water during hot weather
- Make sure that anyone caring for your pet in your absence (pet sitters, boarding facilities, and doggy daycare) is careful to avoid any situations that put your pet at risk for heat stroke
- Discuss your pets medical conditions with your veterinarian and find out how they affect their risk of developing heat stroke
- Make sure you have the name, location and phone number of your primary veterinarian and 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital readily available


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

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