If your pet is experiencing severe heat stress or a heat stroke (symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, difficulty breathing, collapse, or a high rectal temperature) – these are considered “RED” – or true emergencies – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
- DO NOT try to cool down your pet with ice water. Instead, apply soaked towels to belly, armpits, and inner thighs.
- It’s okay to turn air conditioning on in the car – but don’t blast it – as you transport pet to the vet.
- You can offer your pet cool water, but if your pet is not interested or is vomiting, do not force them to drink.
- If your pet is not showing severe symptoms, contact your veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital and they will be able to help determine the degree of heat stress your pet is experiencing and provide recommendations for the next course of action.
As the weather warms up, Minnesotans are excited to enjoy some outdoor fun with their pets. But higher temperatures mean increased heat risks for pets and unfortunately, our ER sees a high volume of heat stress cases throughout the summer. These cases are preventable. Every year, we create content to inform pet owners about heat risks; below, we’ve compiled all of this valuable information as an easy reference on this very important topic.
1. How Pets Sweat
Pets cannot cool off by sweating the way humans can. They only sweat a small amount through their paw pads. Instead, dogs and cats cool off by panting. This causes them to overheat more quickly than humans do.
2. Higher Risk Pets
There are a number of pets that are at a higher risk of overheating. These pets include:
- Brachycephalic breeds (or “squished face” pets) such as Pugs, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, Boston Terrier, and Boxers)
- Very active, working, or hunting dogs
- Pets with medical concerns (such as pets with heart disease, lung disease, or laryngeal paralysis)
- Pets with black fur
- Northern Breeds (such as Huskies or Malamutes)
- Very young pets
- Senior pets
- Obese pets
3. When It’s Hot and Humid Out…
- DO NOT heavily exercise pets if the sum of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit + % of humidity is greater than 150. For example, 80°F + 80% humidity = 160.
- This means no playing fetch or making your dog run alongside you while you run, rollerblade, bike, etc…
- DO NOT let pets walk on hot surfaces.
- Surfaces like asphalt retain heat extremely well and can burn paw pads. Always check the asphalt with your bare hand or foot before allowing your pet to walk on it. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them! Learn more here.
- DO NOT leave your pet in a parked car.
- Even if you park in the shade or crack the windows, the inside temperature of that car is going to increase beyond the outside temperature. Overheating or a heat stroke can cause irreversible organ damage. Learn more here.
4. Watch for Heat Stroke Signs
While outside, monitor your pet at all times. This is especially important if you have a higher risk pet. Seek immediate veterinary care if your pet is displaying signs of heat stress or a heat stroke.
5. What You Can Do if Your Pet Shows Early Signs of Heat Exhaustion
- Move to a cooler location such as a shady spot, near a fan, or an air-conditioned room.
- Check rectal temperature.
- For dogs, a normal body temperature is 100-125°F. A rectal temperature above 103°F is abnormal and above 106°F is dangerously high. Monitor the temperature every 10-15 minutes as you start to cool them down. Pets often become too cold after you start to cool them off.
- Offer cool water. If not interested or vomiting, do not force them to drink.
- Wet them down.
- If you are near a lake, assist your dog into the water (If you spot blue-green algae– DO NOT let them go in the water or drink from it). You can also cool them with a cool bath or apply soaked towels to their belly, armpits, and inner thighs.
- DO NOT use ice or freezing cold water because this will make your pet dangerously cold too quickly.
6. Ways to Prevent Heat Stress
- Keep pets inside with the A/C on.
- Provide fresh, cool water at all times.
- While outside, encourage pets to rest in the shade and monitor closely for signs of heat stress, especially if they are at higher risk.
- Exercise dogs during cooler hours of the day, and opt for a shorter, evenly paced walk. Also, bring along a water bottle and a collapsible dish!
- If you live near a lake, let your dog jump in (Again, check for blue-green algae). Otherwise, fill a kiddie pool or play in the sprinkler.
- Make frozen pet-friendly treats.
- Get rid of extra hair with regular brushing. Pets with thick coats should be professionally groomed.
We hope you and your pets have a wonderful summer! If your pet does experience heat stroke or other heat risks this summer and your family veterinarian is unavailable, our Oakdale location is open 24/7 for curbside emergency care. Our St. Paul location will reopen for curbside emergency care on July 20th, 2020 at noon. Stay safe and stay cool, everyone!
- Heat Safety Tips for Pets
- What to Do if Your Pet is Overheated
- How to Prevent Heat Stroke in Pets
- Understanding Heat Stroke in Pets