Protect Your Pet From The Heat

Dog over a Thermometer over sun in sky
Thousands of pets die each summer from overexposure to the heat. So resident veterinarian Dr. Debbye Turner visits The Saturday Early Showm to explain how to keep your pets cool during the dog days of summer.

Pets should avoid being out at all on really humid days. Neither dogs nor cats have sweat glands in their skin. Although the bottoms of the paws do have sweat glands, they mostly get rid of excess body heat through panting. This system is greatly reduced in very humid conditions.

Pets that are especially vulnerable to the heat are "flat-faced" breeds: Bulldogs, Pekinese, pugs, and Persian cats. Because of their short, stubby noses, they tend to be more prone to upper respiratory infections. They also seem to be less efficient than other breeds in ridding their body of heat through panting.

Obese pets are also vulnerable. That extra "insulation" of fat makes it more difficult for these animals cool down. And be careful with elderly pets. Decreased activity and other impaired organ function associated with age can make the heat very dangerous for the older pet.

Heat Exhaustion - Pets can suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If they are suffering from heat exhaustion, they will have rapid panting, dry gums, muscle twitching, and extreme lethargy. Pet owners want to be able to recognize these signs before it turns into heat stroke, which is more serious.

Heat Stroke - You should be aware of the signs, which could include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue. If your pet does become overheated, you need to immediately lower his body temperature.

Here is what you can do:

  • Wrap in towel soaked with cool water, or
  • Place in a bathtub with cool water, or
  • Pour cool water over the pet, or
  • Put ice-packs on the animal's head
  • Call your veterinarian if you think your pet has heat stroke

Here are some things you can do to protect your pet:

Avoid Excess Play - Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On hot days, save longer walks and games of catch for the cooler mornings and evenings.

Protect The Paws - Pets can burn their paws on hot pavements and beaches. You can protect your pet's paws with booties.

Apply Sunscreen - Pets can get sunburned too, and your pet may require sunscreen on his or her nose and ear tips. Pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. It is best to keep your pet out of the sun during the sun's "peak" hours, which are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Provide Fresh Water - Keep an abundant supply of FRESH water for your pet at all times. The heat can cause their water to evaporate quickly. Adding ice cubes to the water is a great way to help pets cool down and make the water last longer. Most pets won't drink dirty, stagnant water that has sat out for days.

Provide Shelter - If your dog is outside, make sure there is plenty of shade to escape the intense sunrays. On really hot days, bring them inside to an air-conditioned area. Generally, when it is hot to you, it is hot to your pet. So just like humans, they are much more comfortable in a cool environment.

Keep Your Pet Well Groomed - Tangles and matted hair can serve to trap dirt, moisture, and bacteria on the skin. This can lead to skin irritation and even infection. Matted hair traps the heat near the skin and hampers the pet's efforts to stay cool.