Summertime is the best time of year! We tend to be more active during the summer months and try to soak in as much time outside as we can here in Minnesota. This also typically means having our pets enjoy more time outside as well. However, even in the Bold North, we can reach high temperatures and humidity levels. While this can be uncomfortable for us humans, imagine how uncomfortable it is for our beloved pets with their fur coats!
Dogs can’t sweat like humans do in order to lose heat from their bodies; they sweat small amounts from their paw pads, but not from the rest of the body. This is why they can overheat faster than humans. Dogs who have thick fur coats, upper airway disease, and smooshed face breeds that can’t pant effectively (bulldogs, pugs, etc…) are at an even higher risk of overheating or experiencing a heat stroke.
Many owners know not to leave their dogs in a parked car on a hot and humid day but don’t realize that exercise on a warm day can be just as dangerous. On a hot and humid day, normal activities like going for a walk or playing fetch can cause a pet’s body temperature to increase to a dangerous level.
When it’s hotter than 80 degrees, there are a few precautions and steps pet owners can take to prevent heat stroke:
1. Avoid strenuous activities or exercises during the hottest periods of the day or on days with excessive humidity. This includes playing fetch, walking, and rollerblading or biking with your dog running alongside you. Instead, walk in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler. Or find indoor exercises for your pets – like an agility course in the basement, nose work, or teaching obedience or tricks!
2. Always check the pavement before a walk. If it is too hot for your bare foot or hand, it is too hot for a dog’s paws. Hot pavement can cause blistering and injury to the feet/paws. Instead, have your pet walk in the grass if he/she needs to be outside for a bathroom break.
3. During times of high sun, keep pets out of the heat, including direct sunlight. (Depending on whether or not you have air conditioning, this may include cats sitting in windows.) Instead, let pets stay inside in the air conditioning or under some well-placed fans. Dog owners may want to pamper their pups with these DIY frozen dog treats!
If you and your pet do spend some time outside, make sure he/she has plenty of fresh, cool water available to stay hydrated as well as access to the shade. If you suspect your pet is overheating, follow these steps:
1. Bring him/her inside to a cool, dark area.
2. Cool them down by applying cool (not cold) water to their feet, abdomen, and groin area. If you use a garden hose, let any hot water out of the hose first, otherwise it could cause burns. It’s also important to note that you should NOT use ice cold water to cool down your pet. This could actually cause blood vessels to constrict which slows down the process of losing heat from the body.
3. Once your pet is wet, use fans to aid in evaporative heat loss.
If your pet is overheating or experiencing a heat stroke, contact your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital. A heat stroke can be fatal, so it is very important to seek immediate veterinary attention. Hopefully these tips can prevent an emergency and help your pet beat the heat this summer!