Summer is here, and so is the heat. Before you enjoy fun in the sun, ensure your pet is ready for the high temperatures. Our Premier Pet Hospital team wants to test your pet heat-safety knowledge, so take our pop quiz. Hope you studied!

Are pets susceptible to heatstroke?

Yes. Pets are extremely susceptible to heatstroke, because they pant as their primary means to dissipate heat. As they pant, air circulates through their mouth, nose, and lung tissue, evaporating the moisture and releasing heat. On a hot, humid day, this often is not sufficient to keep your pet cool and comfortable, and they can easily overheat. 

Are some pets at higher risk for heatstroke?

Yes. While all pets are susceptible to heatstroke, some are at increased risk, including:

  • Flat-faced breeds — When flat-faced breeds (e.g., boxers, bulldogs, pugs, shih tzus, Himalayan cats) pant, they cannot effectively circulate air, which puts them at increased risk for overheating.
  • Non-acclimated pets — Pets who aren’t acclimated to warm temperatures are at higher risk for overheating. 
  • Thick-coated pets — Your pet’s thick coat insulates them from the heat to some extent, but inhibits their ability to self cool on extremely hot, humid days.
  • Senior pets — As your pet ages, they can no longer effectively regulate their body temperature, increasing their heatstroke risk.
  • Overweight pets — Your pet’s excess weight acts as insulation and inhibits their ability to cool down.
  • Sick pets — Pets affected by heart or respiratory conditions are at increased risk for overheating.

Is heatstroke a serious condition in pets?

Yes. Heatstroke is considered a veterinary emergency, and a pet who overheats needs immediate veterinary care. Heatstroke causes severe, body-wide consequences, such as:

  • Decreased perfusion — Prolonged excessive heat impedes the heart’s ability to pump effectively, causing decreased blood flow (i.e., perfusion) to organs throughout the body.
  • Arrhythmia — Arrhythmias can occur if the heat damages the heart muscle.
  • Kidney dysfunction — Decreased perfusion leads to kidney damage.
  • Sepsis — Gastrointestinal barrier damage can allow bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause sepsis.
  • Respiratory complications — Lung tissue damage can cause fluid accumulation and respiratory difficulties.
  • Seizures — Heat can cause brain swelling and hemorrhage that leads to seizures and other neurologic complications.
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) — Prolonged heat exposure can trigger DIC, a life-threatening condition that leads to body-wide clotting abnormalities.

What are heatstroke signs in pets?

Initial signs include decreased activity, heavy panting, and thick, ropey saliva, followed by worsening signs if the pet is not cooled. These include:

  • Red, tacky mucous membranes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

What is your pet’s normal body temperature?

Your pet’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees. Temperatures 104 and higher are an emergency situation.

What temperature is safe for leaving your pet in the car?

None. Leaving your pet in a parked car is never safe. On mild days, temperatures inside a vehicle can quickly escalate, endangering your pet. Other factors to consider include:

  • “I’ll only be gone a short time” — You can easily get side-tracked and leave your pet for longer than expected.
  • “I parked in the shade” — Shade does not keep your car’s interior temperature from skyrocketing.
  • “I left the window cracked” — Cracking the window does not keep temperatures at a safe level for your pet.

How can you keep your pet hydrated in the summer?

Hydration is extremely important to help keep your pet from overheating. Keep your pet well hydrated by:

  • Always having water available — Ensure your pet always has access to fresh, clean water, and provide multiple sources throughout your home.
  • Refreshing the water — Clean and refresh your pet’s water bowl daily.
  • Providing water outdoors — Take water and a portable water bowl with you on outings, and allow your pet to drink frequently.
  • Encouraging more drinking — Provide your pet who is drawn to running water with a water fountain to encourage them to drink more.
  • Ensuring sufficient drinking — Monitor your pet’s water intake to ensure they are drinking enough.
  • Watching for dehydration signs — Monitor your pet for dehydration signs, such as dry nose, tacky mucous membranes, lethargy, and an increased skin tent.
  • Offering icy treats — Freeze treats in ice and give your pet a cool surprise.

How can you keep your pet cool this summer?

Keep your pet cool by:

  • Keeping the house cool — Leave your pet at home with the air conditioner running and the curtains closed.
  • Walking at appropriate times — Walk your pet only in the early mornings and evenings to avoid the hottest times of day.
  • Seeking the shade — Take frequent shade breaks when outdoors with your pet.
  • Keeping them cool in a pool — Provide a kiddie pool, so your pet can enjoy fun in the sun.
  • Using a spray bottle  — Mist your pet with a spray bottle to help keep their body temperature down.
  • Limiting exercise — Avoid vigorous exercise for your pet on hot, humid days.

What should you do if your pet overheats?

If your pet overheats, first aid includes:

  • Moving your pet — Move your pet to a cool area and put fans on them, if possible.
  • Providing water — Offer your pet cool water, but don’t pour the water in their mouth.
  • Taking your pet’s temperature — Monitor your pet’s temperature with a rectal thermometer, so you can relay the information to our veterinary team.
  • Cooling your pet — Submerge your pet in lukewarm water or pour water over them—never use ice or cold water, which will bring their temperature down too quickly.
  • Seeking veterinary care — Overheating can cause serious internal damage, and your pet should receive veterinary care as soon as possible. 

How did you do on the quiz? Knowing this information is important to keep your four-legged friend cool and safe this summer. However, if your pet overheats, start cooling them and contact our Premier Pet Hospital team immediately, so we can ensure they receive the necessary care.