Tennessee temperatures are climbing, and we’re all finding ways to beat the heat. As you sit in the shade, take a dip in the lake, or sip iced tea, don’t forget about your fur-coat-wearing friend panting beside you. Pets can easily overheat, or develop other heat-related problems, while enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Follow these six tips, to prevent a pet disaster from ruining your summer fun.
#1: Exercise your pet when it’s cooler outside
Pets can overheat if they fall asleep in the hot sun, so exercising in the midday heat is definitely a no-no. Your pet can easily become overwhelmed by the heat and humidity, and develop heat exhaustion, or more severe heatstroke. Take your daily walk or jog in the early morning or evening hours, when the sun isn’t so intense, and the air is cooler. Before you set out, put your hand on the pavement to ensure it is not too hot, and won’t burn your pet’s sensitive paw pads. And, don’t forget about your pet outside in the backyard, running along the fence with the neighbor’s dog. Keep an eye on your crazy Lab, and bring them in frequently for breaks from the heat, since they probably won’t think on their own to do so.
#2: Ensure your pet can escape the heat outdoors
Ensure your yard has plenty of places where your pet can cool down between play sessions. Mature trees, a porch, or a temporary shelter will create a shady escape from the sweltering sun, and a big bowl of cool water will encourage your pet to rehydrate. If your yard is open, without shade, install a doggy door so your pet can go into your air-conditioned home when they need a break. Never leave your pet tethered outside in the sun, or unattended for long periods of time, because heatstroke signs can develop quickly.
#3: Recognize heat exhaustion signs in your pet
If your pet overdoes it, and their internal body temperature rises above normal, they will start to look and feel ill. Monitor your pet for heat exhaustion signs, so you can cool them down before deadly heatstroke sets in. Pets with heat exhaustion show signs that may include:
- Excessive panting
- Thick, ropy drool
- Lack of coordination
If your pet shows heat exhaustion signs, take them inside, and begin cooling actions immediately to prevent progression to heatstroke, which can cause bloody diarrhea, collapse, seizure, and death. Always visit your veterinarian at Belmont Animal Hospital after cooling your pet, to ensure the episode did not cause internal organ damage.
#4: Know if your pet is prone to overheating
Any pet can overheat if they are too active in the heat or humidity, but some pets are at higher risk of heat exhaustion, and require a closer eye, including:
- Brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, shih tzus, and Persian cats
- Senior pets
- Overweight pets
- Pets with chronic diseases, such as heart disease
- Pets with breathing difficulties, such as those with laryngeal paralysis, or collapsing trachea
Brachycephalic pets are at highest risk because, along with a blunted muzzle, they also have shorter nasal passages. Since pets rely on moisture evaporation from their oral and nasal passages to cool themselves, these pets cannot cool off efficiently, and easily overheat. High-risk pets should be taken out only for quick potty breaks on hot, humid days to prevent a disaster.
#5: Never leave your pet in a parked car
Each year, we hear reports of unfortunate pets who overheat, and die, in hot vehicles. Your car’s interior can reach dangerously high temperatures in a matter of minutes on a hot day. According to a well-known study, the temperature inside a car on a sunny, 70-degree day can reach almost 90 degrees in 10 minutes, and almost 100 degrees in 20 minutes. On a hotter day, temperatures can rise to dangerous levels in less than 10 minutes. Leave your pet at home while you run errands, so you aren’t tempted to quickly run into a store, and leave your best friend inside a virtual oven.
#6: Make cooling off fun for your pet
Your backyard is full of summer toys for your kids, but what about your four-legged family member? Many dogs enjoy playing in a kiddie pool full of cool water, or running through a sprinkler. You can also head to your favorite watering hole, to let your water-loving pooch take a refreshing dip—but ensure you keep them on a long tether, if you are not certain whether they can swim. Kids love to cool off with a popsicle, so make pet-friendly pupsicles for your dog by freezing yogurt and fresh fruit in ice cube trays. Your cat may enjoy licking an ice cube made from chicken broth, or water flavored with tuna juice.
Follow these tips to ward off the heat, so you and your pet have a safe, fun summer. If, despite your best efforts, your furry friend lands themselves in trouble, call us for advice or treatment.