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Heat-Related Illness and Heat Safety Tips for Pets

5:22 pm

Summer temperatures continue to rise each year, which can put people and pets in danger of heat-related illnesses and emergencies. Don’t let temperature extremes keep you and your pets indoors—with a few precautions, you can safely enjoy everything beautiful New Jersey has to offer. Here are some top tips and tricks for keeping pets safe.

Heatstroke in pets

Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency condition that commonly occurs in dogs. This is because their body temperature can easily spike if they are exposed to high heat and humidity without adequate cooling measures, and serious damage to body cells and organs can result. The heatstroke mortality rate is high even with treatment—up to half of affected dogs may pass away in hours or days from organ dysfunction, blood clotting, bleeding issues, or brain damage.

Before their condition progresses to heatstroke, dogs may experience heat stress or heat exhaustion, characterized by rapid panting, weakness or lethargy, and possible muscle cramps from dehydration. Taking them to air-conditioned indoors at this stage could save their life. When dogs progress to heatstroke (i.e., a body temperature above 104 degrees), organ systems start to shut down. Signs include:

  • Red gums at first, or pale gums during advanced stages
  • Fast heart rate
  • Collapse
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pinpoint bruising or bleeding, including into the urinary or digestive tracts
  • Confusion

Dogs most at risk for heatstroke include those who are overweight, have shortened, smushed noses (i.e., brachycephaly), are older, or have heart or lung problems. However, any pet exposed too long to heat can be affected. Exercising outdoors and confinement in a hot vehicle are two classic heatstroke scenarios.

Pet heat safety tips

Keep your pet safe by exercising caution and choosing your outdoor activities wisely. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Never leave pets alone in a hot car, which acts like an oven, or unsupervised in a sunny backyard.
  • Keep outdoor mid-day trips short and save the longer walks for early morning or late evening when temperatures are coolest.
  • Always provide pets with unlimited cool water and shade for resting.
  • Keep high-risk pets indoors in the air conditioning as much as possible.
  • Acclimate pets who must work or exercise outdoors to the heat slowly, by gradually lengthening outdoor sessions each day.
  • Beware of hot pavement, which can burn your dog’s paw pads. It’s best to stick to grass, dirt, or gravel paths, or purchase protective booties. Pavement heats up quickly, and even mild temperatures can heat pavement to more than 100 degrees.
  • For day trips or hikes with your dog, consider the temperature, humidity, and cloud cover before you go. Take plenty of water and a collapsible bowl on the trail, and have your dog wear a water or gel-filled cooling vest to increase your safe time outdoors.
  • Keep your primary veterinarian and AERA phone numbers programmed in your phone in case of a heat-related emergency or injury.

Summer pet activities that beat the heat

When you simply can’t escape the heat wave or your dog is going stir-crazy from boredom, try a few summer-friendly activities that will stimulate their senses without exposing them to dangerous conditions.

Try one of the following engaging ideas:

  • Brush up on obedience skills — Training is mentally exhausting, because your pet is forced to use their brain, and requires only a small area indoors. Reinforce old skills or teach your dog some new and interesting tricks. For high-energy pets, incorporate physical tricks like jumping over objects, rolling over, or target touching from a distance.
  • Go for a swim — Swimming in a natural, algae-free water body or a man-made pool is great fun for dogs who love water. If your pet has never been swimming, try a local rehabilitation facility that offers swim lessons for doggy paddle beginners—they’ll get in the water with your pet to ensure they have a good experience. This is also a great option for people who cannot easily access an outdoor pool.
  • Water games — For pups who don’t like to immerse themselves completely, try a hose or sprinkler outside. Many pets who aren’t fond of baths or rain will enjoy playing in the sprinkler on a hot day.

With close monitoring, appropriate activity choices, and using the cooler hours of the day to your advantage, you can continue to enjoy the summer without worrying about your pet overheating.

At AERA, ourfacility is well-equipped to handle critical emergencies such as heatstroke, but prevention is always the best course of action. Should you ever need us, or if your pet is exposed to high temperatures, shows heatstroke signs, or suffers another heat-related illness or injury, you can contact emergency services at AERA.