Helping your pets beat the heat

The dog days of summer are here and that means beach time, cook outs and family reunions for us humans. But when you love your dog or cat, the hot weather means some extra care to keep them cool and comfy. Here are some useful tips to make sure your pets weather the weather and enjoy the summer with you.

Both dogs and cats dissipate heat by panting and as they get overheated, they pant more quickly trying to maintain a safe internal temperature. There are two major reasons pets get overheated: hyperthermia and upper respiratory issues. Hyperthermia occurs when animals are trapped in an environment (like a car or the beach on a hot day) that overwhelms their ability to cool themselves. Pets with compromised upper airways, like bulldogs, have more difficulty removing heat in their bodies through panting. These animals often find that, in attempting to cool themselves, they generate more heat through exertion and can fall victim to heat stroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive panting or labored breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling and mild weakness, according to the ASPCA. More severe symptoms can include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomiting and a body temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your pet will prefer staying at home and laying on cool surfaces (like your tiled kitchen floor) in the heat of the day. Save your outdoor time with your pet for early in the morning or in the evening once the sun has set. By taking your daily walk, run or visit to the park either before or after the sun is at its hottest, the air will be easier for your pet to breathe and the ground will be cooler on the pads of their paws.

If you do find yourself out in midday with your pet, make sure you keep them out of direct sunlight or give them a shady place to get out of the sun. Remember, your pets don’t wear shoes, so the pads of their paws can be burned walking across particularly hot sand or asphalt. If it’s extremely warm, keep them indoors as much as possible.

In addition to overheating, pets can get dehydrated quickly, so you’ll want to make plenty of fresh, clean water available to them. Panting is effective in allowing animals to cool down because it helps evaporate fluids from the respiratory tract. Help replace these fluids and prevent dehydration by leaving out water throughout the day, particularly when your pet has spent time outside in the heat. Water alternatives, like Pedialyte, are especially great for pets since they replenish electrolytes and taste great.

If your pet is brachycephalic or has a flat-shaped face like Pugs, Pekingese, Boston terriers and Persian cats, they cannot pant as effectively and are more susceptible to heat stroke. Be especially careful with breeds like these in hot weather and keep plenty of water. The ASPCA also advises that pets who are elderly, overweight and have heart or lung disease be kept in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible in the heat.

When the temperatures soar, pets love to cool off in refreshing water. Fill up a shallow, plastic kiddie pool with water and let your dog splash around or lie down in the water. It’s adorable to watch, great for your pet, and will probably make a hilarious viral video. If you have a swimming pool, make sure your dog knows how to swim and can safely exit the pool via the steps.

Be very aware of heat stroke in pets. Heavy panting, excessive water consumption and disorientation are typical signs of heatstroke in pets.

If you think your pet is experiencing heatstroke, quickly move him into a cool, air-conditioned place. Apply cold ice packs or towels to his head, neck, and chest or put your pet in the bathtub and gently run cool, not cold, water over his body.

Don’t take any chances with your pets. If your pets show signs of physical distress, particularly if they have seizures or lose consciousness, immediately take them to your vet or local emergency animal clinic.