You and your pet probably enjoy spending more time outdoors in the summer, but climbing temperatures can lead to problems for your pet. Heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke, can strike anytime in hot, humid, and sunny weather. Pets cannot cool down as efficiently as people, and they are uncomfortable in temperatures that people find tolerable. 

Heatstroke is the result of increased body temperature and the most severe form of heat-related illness that can lead to organ failure, blood clotting problems, and death only a few hours or days after the heat exposure. The LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team hopes no pet owner has to experience this tragedy, so we’re sharing tips to help you keep your pet safe.

#1: Identify your pet’s risk level

Any pet can succumb to heat-related illness, but some are at higher risk because they are less able to dissipate heat or regulate their own body temperature. High-risk pets include:

  • Brachycephalic (i.e., flat-faced) breeds
  • Overweight pets
  • Pets with heart, lung, or airway diseases, or endocrine disease
  • Young or senior pets

#2: Know heatstroke signs in pets

You should immediately contact our team or a local veterinary emergency facility if you believe your pet is suffering from heatstroke, because the sooner you act, the better your pet’s chances for recovery. The first signs often include muscle spasms, panting, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. Left in the heat, these pets will progress to the following heatstroke signs:

  • Excessive panting
  • Reddened gums
  • Fast heart rate
  • Seizures or collapse
  • Disorientation
  • Stumbling or muscle rigidity
  • Death

#3: Avoid outdoor activity during the hottest parts of day

Exercising and trips outside are less dangerous during the cooler times of day, including early mornings and late evenings. Plan your walks or long outdoor play sessions for these times, whenever possible.

#4: Never leave pets in hot cars or unattended outdoors

A car acts like an oven, trapping heat and causing temperatures inside to rise rapidly. Cracking the windows has little cooling effect, and pets left inside are at high risk for rapid heatstroke or death. Avoid taking your pet in the car if they will be left in the car for long periods or leave the air conditioner running while you are gone.

#5: Provide cool water at all times

Dogs cool themselves through evaporation as they pant, which can quickly dehydrate them. Water keeps your pet’s cooling mechanisms working efficiently and has a cooling effect in itself. Ensure pets have easy access to cool water at all times, including on long walks or car rides.

#6: Plan shady walking routes and take frequent breaks

Pets who need long walks for mental stimulation and exercise still need them during the summer. If you can’t walk during the cooler parts of the day, plan a walking route with lots of shade and resting places. Don’t forget to bring water, too.

#7: Invest in cooling pet gear

Cooling pet gear, including cooling shirts and mats, helps your pet dissipate heat through various methods. Products may be soaked in water, chilled in the refrigerator, or filled with water, or are self-cooling with special gels. These are especially helpful for dogs with black fur who like to spend time in the sun.

#8: Protect your pet from hot asphalt

Hot asphalt can burn your pet’s paw pads quickly and radiate heat that some pets who are close to the ground easily absorb. Encourage pets to walk in the grass alongside the road, or seek out gravel, limestone, or concrete surfaces that stay naturally cooler. You can also purchase protective booties and paw butter to care for sensitive pads.

#9: Consult your groomer for a summer-ready cut

A pet’s hair coat often has multiple layers that help them stay cool in the heat and warm in the winter, so shaving down a thick-coated pet does not always help them keep cool. Still, many pets benefit from a shorter summer look, so ask your groomer about the best course of action.

#10: Try swimming for pet exercise

Swimming provides pets with fun activity and exercise while simultaneously cooling them down. If you have a water-loving dog without access to a pool or pond, provide a baby splash pool or backyard sprinkler. Always supervise pets around water and use a life jacket for inexperienced swimmers.

You can enjoy summer weather, activities, and events with your pet so long as you take extra precautions to protect them from overheating. Contact the LaGrange Veterinary Hospital team for more information about heat safety, or to schedule a pre-summer wellness check.