The dog days of summer can be unkind to your pet. Heat and humidity can cause significant problems for your four-legged family member, potentially putting their life at risk. Our Smithtown Animal Hospital team wants your summer to be free of veterinary emergencies, and we’re sharing this educational information with you, so you can learn to help keep your furry pal safe and cool when the temperatures rise.

Heatstroke is a veterinary emergency

Your pet’s normal body temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees. When environmental factors or excessive exertion causes your four-legged friend’s body temperature to increase higher than 104 degrees, they develop heatstroke. A sustained elevated body temperature detrimentally affects your pet’s organs, such as their heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract (GI), kidneys, and brain. In addition, heatstroke can trigger disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a complicated condition that causes blood clotting abnormalities throughout the body. Heatstroke can lead to permanent organ damage, and in severe cases, death.

Some pets have an increased heatstroke risk

All pets are susceptible to heatstroke because their bodies rely on inefficient cooling processes. Dogs pant as their primary cooling method. As air circulates over their oral surfaces and respiratory tissues, moisture evaporates, causing a cooling effect. Cats lick their fur, and cooling occurs when the saliva evaporates. While all pets can experience heatstroke, some have an increased risk:

  • Flat-faced (i.e., brachycephalic) breeds — Brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs, bulldogs, Pekingese, and Persian cats, have a smaller oral surface area, making them inefficient panters. These breeds have an increased heatstroke risk.
  • Overweight pets — Carrying an insulating fat layer inhibits an overweight pet’s ability to cool themself.
  • Young and old pets — Puppies, kittens, and senior pets have difficulty regulating their body temperature, which increases their heatstroke risk.
  • Sick pets — Pets affected by conditions such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, laryngeal paralysis, asthma, or tracheal collapse have an increased heatstroke risk.

Dehydration increases your pet’s heatstroke risk

Maintaining proper hydration is critical to help prevent your pet from developing heatstroke. To encourage your pet to drink an adequate amount of water, follow these tips:

  • Ensuring your pet always has water — Ensure your pet always has access to fresh, clean water.
  • Providing multiple water sources — Provide multiple water bowls throughout your home, so your pet can easily find a drink.
  • Cleaning your pet’s water bowl — Clean your pet’s water bowl daily, and refresh the water to prevent pathogen accumulation.
  • Packing water — Before leaving the house with your pet, pack water and a portable bowl so you can frequently offer your pet a drink.
  • Encouraging water consumption — If running water fascinates your pet, provide a water fountain. Doing so may encourage them to drink more water.

Heatstroke first aid can save your pet’s life

If your pet overheats, performing heatstroke first aid can save their life. To help prevent your pet from succumbing to heatstroke, follow these tips:

  • Know the signs — Monitor your pet closely for heatstroke signs such as lethargy, excessive panting, thick, ropy drool, bright red mucous membranes, diarrhea, spontaneous bleeding, seizure, and collapse.
  • Move your pet — If your pet overheats, move them to an air-conditioned or shaded area.
  • Monitor your pet’s temperature — Use a rectal thermometer to take your pet’s temperature. Doing so allows you to monitor your four-legged friend’s condition so you can relay this information to our Smithtown Animal Hospital team.
  • Cool your pet — Submerge your pet in lukewarm water or pour water over their body to help lower their temperature. Never use ice or cold water when trying to bring down your pet’s body temperature. If you lower your furry pal’s body temperature too quickly, they can go into shock.
  • Seek immediate veterinary care — Continue to cool your pet, and seek immediate veterinary care. Even if your pet seems to recover during the cooling process, they should still have a veterinary evaluation, because overheating can cause serious internal damage.

Pet heatstroke can be prevented

Heatstroke can be deadly to your pet. However, you can prevent your furry pal from developing this condition by following these tips:

  • Never leave your pet unattended in a car — A parked vehicle’s temperatures can quickly skyrocket, creating an oven-like environment. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked open is not sufficient to keep the temperature at a safe level. Leave your pet at home if you will be going to an establishment that is not pet-friendly.
  • Schedule a wellness examination — Schedule your pet’s wellness examination with our Smithtown Animal Hospital team to help ensure your four-legged friend has no medical issues that could increase their heatstroke risk.
  • Exercise safely — Avoid vigorous outdoor exercise on excessively hot or humid days. If your pet has a high heatstroke risk, only go outside for short bathroom breaks in the early morning and evening hours when temperatures tend to be cooler.
  • Seek the shade — When on outings, seek shady routes. Doing so can help protect your pet’s skin from sunburn and their paws from pavement burn.
  • Take breaks — When out and about with your furry pal, take frequent breaks in the shade or an air-conditioned area to let your pet cool down and take a drink.
  • Close your curtains — To help keep temperatures in your home cool and comfortable for your pet, leave the air conditioner running and close your curtains and blinds.
  • Never tether your pet — Never leave your pet tethered unattended outside. They can easily become entangled in the tether, inhibiting their ability to access shade or water.
  • Provide fun cooling options — Let your four-legged friend enjoy fun in the sun by providing water activities, such as splashing in a kiddie pool or running through the sprinkler. 
  • Use cooling products — Cooling products, such as cooling vests and cooling mats, help prevent pets from overheating.

Schedule your pet’s wellness examination with our Smithtown Animal Hospital team, so we can ensure your furry pal is in tip-top shape to enjoy all the summer fun.