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Protecting Your P​​​​et During Hot Weather

June 23, 2023

Pets and companion animals feel the heat just as much as humans do and they can also suffer from heat-related illnesses. Heat stroke in pets is a life-threatening emergency and can lead to organ damage or death if not treated quickly. Know the symptoms of overheating for animals, including excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness or lethargy, stupor or even collapse, excessive thirst, and vomiting or diarrhea. 

​Pets may be at a higher risk for heat stroke if they:​

  • Are wearing a muzzle (which prevents their ability to cool off by panting)
  • Are overweight or of a large breed
  • Have long or thick coats
  • Are of a breed that has restricted airways (such as bulldogs, pugs, boxers, Boston terriers, Persian cats, and other brachycephalic breeds)
  • Have underlying heart, lung, or tracheal disease

Help protect the health of pets and other companion animals during an extreme heat event by taking these steps.

  • Never leave pets in a parked vehicle. Even cracked windows won't protect your pet from suffering from heat stroke, or worse, during hot summer days.
  • Provide your pet with fresh, cool water every day in a tip-proof bowl.
  • Don't force animals to exercise when it is hot and humid. Exercise pets early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler.
  • Bring water and take breaks in the shade when walking. Unlike people, pets cannot sweat to effectively cool themselves down.
  • Bring pets inside during periods of extreme heat.
  • Ensure pets have plenty of shade and shelter if kept outside. Remember, the shade pets have in the morning will either change or diminish as the sun moves throughout the day and may not protect them.
  • Asphalt and concrete can get very hot and cause severe burns on the pads of your pet's feet. Consider using protective booties to place over their feet or walking them on grass. If it is too hot for you to rest your hand on the ground, it is too hot for your pet's paws.
  • Animals with flat faces are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with older and overweight pets, should be kept in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible.
  • Keep your pet well-groomed, but resist the temptation to shave off all of their hair to keep them cool. A pet's coat will protect it from getting sunburned and acts as a cooling insulation for most animals.​​

Signs of heat stroke in dogs and pets include:

  • Breathing quickly or panting louder/heavier than usual. Open-mouthed breathing/panting in cats is not normal and is a sign of being extremely hot, stressed, or sick.
  • Weakness and/or collapse
  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Pale, muddy, or red-colored gums (normal is light pink and moist)
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Excessively tired, dizzy, or confused
  • Bruising or bleeding​

Heat stroke is an emergency and could cause permanent brain damage, liver or kidney injury, muscle damage, blood clotting disorders, multi-organ failure, or death in pets if not treated immediately. If you think your pet may be suffering from heat stroke:

  • Call your veterinarian immediately or take your pet to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic.
  • Safely cool them down by placing them in the shade or a cool room until they can be seen by a veterinarian. Use cool or room temperature water to wet their head, ears, paws, and belly. Do not use ice or cold water.
  • Provide continuous airflow across their body (such as through using a fan, opening the window while driving, and/or turning on the air conditioning) on your way to the veterinarian.​

Other safety tips for hot weather:​

  • Never let your pet swim or run around an unfenced pool unattended. Ensure your pool has an accessible entry and exit point (such as stairs or slip-free ramp) for your pet to easily get in and out of the pool. Keep pool cleaner chemicals stored away from any area your pet has access to.
  • Pets can get sun burned too! Apply pet-safe sunscreen to areas such as the top of the nose, especially in lighter-colored breeds. Animals with lighter-colored fur and pink skin are more susceptible to solar-induced skin cancers.
  • Make sure your pet is current on heartworm and parasite preventatives. Certain vectors, such as mosquitos and ticks, are more active in warmer weather and can transmit diseases to you and your pet. Talk to your veterinarian about which monthly flea, tick, mosquito, and intestinal parasite preventatives are recommended for your pet.
  • River, pond, and beach water is not safe for pets to drink. If you take your pet swimming, ensure they have separate, fresh water available to drink. Do not allow your pet to swim in water that appears green, murky, discolored (green, tan, turquoise, white, etc.) or has floating scum or deceased animals in it, as these could indicate the presence of a harmful algal bloom​​

It is important to work with your local cooling centers to allow pets and other companion animals inside (while being sensitive to those with animal allergies), since many people may not want to or are not able to leave their pets behind.​

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