As Windsor emergency vet services, we often treat pets suffering from heatstroke and other heat-related health problems in the summer months. Heat exposure can be particularly dangerous in Northern Colorado due to our high elevation, long heat waves, and outdoor oriented culture.
Keeping Your Pet Cool and Hydrated in Warm Weather
Keeping your pet safe during the hot, dry summers of Northern Colorado is all about learning to recognize the early signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion. You should also know which situations make it difficult for your pet to cool themselves down.
The first and most obvious and deadly situation is leaving a pet in a hot car for any amount of time. Some people believe that there is a specific amount of time where it’s safe to leave a pet in a car on a hot day, we join most vets today in telling dog owners that they shouldn’t leave them for even a minute in a hot car alone. Even with the car running and the air conditioner on, a hot car is a dangerous situation for a pet. It doesn’t take long for a dog to get overheated, and because dogs don’t have the ability to sweat to cool themselves off, they need access to drinking water to ease their panting. On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 102 degrees in only 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, with the car temperature rising to 120 degrees, dogs can suffer from organ damage which can lead to death.
Another potentially dangerous situation is the dog park. Dogs need more supervised exercise than cats which means that they are more accustomed to their daily romp at the park. Some dogs get so excited about playing that they ignore their body’s warning signs or are unable to respond quickly enough to cool down, which can lead to heat stroke or exhaustion. Watch your dog closely during play for signs of overheating and limit exercise on warm days. Make sure that when playtime is over, your dog has a cool place to lie down out of the sun with free access to water.
Many factors can affect your pet’s response to heat. Luckily, there are many things that you can do to help reduce their risk for overheating.
- The first thing you should do when the weather starts to heat up is to take your pet to the vet for a checkup.
- The best thing you can do for your pets when it’s hot out is to give them unlimited access to water and shade.
- Watch for symptoms of dehydration and take action. Many cases of heat exhaustion and worse can be avoided by watching for the signs of dehydration in dogs. These symptoms include excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, excessive drooling, weakness, or collapse. More serious symptoms like bloody stool, seizures, vomiting, and elevated internal temperatures over 104 degrees require immediate veterinary attention.
- Plan around the weather and the health of your dog. If it’s going to be extremely hot during the middle of the day, avoid exercising your dog. Cement and asphalt become hot much more quickly than most people realize. Remember that your pet doesn’t wear shoes and these hot surfaces can burn your dog’s feet.
- Plan to keep your pets inside during the hottest part of the day if you can. You can also adjust your indoor temperature to make your pets more comfortable. Creating different temperature zones in your home using sun-blocking curtains and ceiling fans can give your pets some options inside to make their hangouts.
- Certain dogs and cats are particularly vulnerable to heat-related health problems. Pets with flat faces, such as pugs and Persian cats, can get overheated faster than other pets because they can’t pant as freely. Other pets that are more susceptible include the elderly, overweight, and those with heart and lung diseases. If your pets fall into any of these categories, you’ll want to be extra careful to monitor them and keep them out of high temperatures.
- Avoid over trimming or completely shaving your pet’s coat. Regular grooming is beneficial, just remember that your pet’s coat helps protect them from sunburn and overheating.
- Many pet owners like to cut their pet’s coat in a ‘summer cut’ to help keep them cool. Regular trimming, brushing, and mat removal is recommended, but it’s important to know that there’s a real danger in overdoing it. Pet coats protect from sunburn and actually help keep them cool. Don’t trim your pet’s coats too short, and never try to shave them completely.
A Guide to Heat Stroke and How to Treat it
Heatstroke requires medical attention, however, there are many things you can do to mitigate the effects of heatstroke and help your pet recover faster. Recognizing the symptoms can allow you to begin cooling your pet off sooner. The symptoms of heatstroke include excessive panting and drooling, restlessness or agitation, breathing distress, vomiting, very pale gums or very red gums, bright red tongue, and increased heart rate. If you see these symptoms in your pet, here are actions you can take:
- Take your pet out of direct heat, preferably inside in an air-conditioned room.
- Check for signs of shock, including collapse, bloody diarrhea or vomit, lethargy, seizures, or coma. If any of these signs are present, rush your pet to the emergency pet hospital immediately.
- Take your pet’s temperature. Any temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher means that your dog is in the danger zone.
- Spray or soak your pet’s coat in cool water (not ice water), then take another temperature reading. If the body temperature is still at a dangerous level, rush them to the vet.
- While transporting your dog to the emergency vet, help them cool off by placing water-soaked towels on their head, neck, feet, and body.
Emergency Vet Services
It’s important to realize that severe heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be serious problems if not treated properly. Take your pet to the vet if you think they are suffering from heatstroke or appear to be overheated. Do not hesitate to call an emergency vet if you suspect your dog might be overheated. Even if they don’t recommend you bring them in, they can help guide you through steps to help your pet cool down.