Summer is quickly fading into fall, and you want to squeeze every last bit of fun from the remaining beautiful days. As you include your pet in your outdoor plans, don’t forget that temperatures can become sweltering during the fall months as well. As you pack cold water and sunscreen for your gang before heading to the Jersey Shore, or on a sweaty hike, keep in mind that your pet also requires special precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses during your adventures. At Animal Emergency & Referral Associates, our emergency team commonly treats heat exhaustion and heatstroke in pets who fall ill from the intense sun, heat, and humidity. Fortunately, these dangers are completely preventable. Read about how heat-related illnesses can affect your pet, and how forethought and planning can keep them safe and healthy.
Heat exhaustion develops when your pet’s body temperature rises above their normal 100 to 102.5 degrees, in response to excessive activity, or prolonged exposure to high heat or humidity. As your pet’s temperature rises, they begin to feel sick, and may exhibit heat exhaustion signs, such as:
Monitor your pet closely any time they are out in hot weather, so you can detect heat exhaustion signs early, and respond quickly.
Heatstroke is a more severe form of overheating, and occurs when your pet’s body temperature rises to dangerously high levels that can cause severe damage. Your pet’s increasing temperature can affect their sensitive internal organs, which can lead to organ failure, or death, in severe cases. If heat exhaustion progresses to heatstroke, your pet may develop signs such as:
Heatstroke is life-threatening, and requires immediate action to save your pet’s life.
Pets can develop heatstroke any time they are exposed to high heat or humidity for prolonged periods. Although taking your pet to the beach with no shade, or on a grueling hike, can certainly put them in danger, heat-related illnesses can also develop in your own backyard. If you leave your pet outside, or confined to an inside area without air conditioning, for long periods on a hot day, they are at risk of overheating.
Pets can also become too hot if they exercise in extreme heat or humidity. Taking your dog on a long lunchtime walk in the hot midday sun can be a recipe for disaster. Also, keep a close eye on your fun-loving pooch who loves to play fetch, or run the fence with your neighbor’s dog, as they may be so eager to play that they conceal early warning signs.
Any pet can overheat, but some pets are at higher risk of developing heat-related illnesses, including:
Brachycephalic pets are at highest risk of overheating, because they cannot cool themselves efficiently in hot weather. Pets lack sweat glands, and cool themselves by panting, which allows moisture to evaporate from their mouth and nasal cavity surfaces. With their shorter muzzles, brachycephalic pets have significantly less surface area for evaporative cooling, so they overheat more readily.
Pets at higher risk of overheating must be watched closely, and should go out only for short, supervised bathroom breaks on hot or humid days.
If you notice heat exhaustion signs in your pet, immediate action is critical to cool them down, and prevent progression to heatstroke. Follow these steps to cool your pet:
To prevent a heat-related emergency, follow these tips to avoid situations that will expose your pet to high heat and humidity:
We know you are looking forward to enjoying the remaining warm days with your pet. Keep a close eye on your furry pal, and call your family veterinarian, or AERA, at the first heat exhaustion sign.