When summer kicks into high gear, you may want to retreat to the cool conditions inside your house and ride out the scorching summer season. But, your four-legged friend isn’t going to let you miss out on all the wonderful activities summer has to offer. Before venturing into the great—and hot—outdoors, learn how to keep your furry pal safe from heat-related dangers.

Heatstroke risk factors for pets

While any pet can develop heatstroke, certain pets are an increased risk for overheating. If your pet falls into one or more of the following categories, take additional precautions to keep them cool:

  • Young pets
  • Senior pets
  • Overweight or obese pets
  • Double-coated pets
  • Brachycephalic pets (e.g., bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers)
  • Pets with respiratory issues, such as a collapsing trachea or laryngeal paralysis
  • Pets with heart disease
  • Pets with endocrine disease

Pets with these conditions are unable to cool themselves effectively, or their thermoregulatory systems are less functional, so monitor them closely while outdoors. Additionally, pets with a high drive are more likely to overheat because they are unable to take breaks to cool off on their own, and may continue to play or work to the point of heat exhaustion.

Heatstroke signs in pets

When outside with your pet, keep a close eye on them. If your furry pal begins panting excessively, or their drool turns thick and ropey, it’s time to head indoors. Other signs of heatstroke in pets include:

  • Bright red gums
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Stumbling while walking
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

Heatstroke treatment for pets

If your pet appears to be overheating, immediate cooling treatment is critical for preventing organ failure and disseminated intravascular coagulation, which causes abnormal bleeding in pets. First, bring your pet into an air-conditioned space or a cool environment. Then, spray them down with tepid or cool—not cold—water to slowly bring down their body temperature. Position a fan at their face to speed up evaporation and heat dissipation. Avoid wrapping your pet in wet towels or using ice to cool them, as this can be more damaging than beneficial. 

Check your pet’s temperature every five minutes to avoid cooling them too much. Once their temperature reaches 103.5 degrees, stop your cooling measures and head to Columbia Pike Animal Hospital.

Heatstroke prevention for pets

Preventing heatstroke from occurring in your pet can save their life. Keep your furry pal cool and comfortable this summer by:

  • Monitoring the weather — Watch the daily forecast to see if conditions are too miserable to take your pet out, and to determine which part of the day is the coolest. Typically, early morning has the lowest temperature and humidity levels, offering the best time to play outdoors.
  • Playing in water — Splashing in a shallow wading pool or sprinkler is a refreshing way to stay cool, and provides a great way to burn off your pet’s energy safely in the summer.
  • Providing fresh water — Encourage your pet to stay hydrated by regularly swapping out stagnant, hot water for cool, fresh liquid.
  • Staying in the shade — Sticking to shaded paths while walking or hanging out under leafy trees will help protect your pet from the blistering sunlight.

Additional heat-related problems for pets

While heatstroke is the most medically significant heat-related danger for pets, additional problems can result from a summertime “overdose.” Other common issues that can arise during hot and sunny weather include:

  • Paw pad burns — Sizzling pavement can scorch your pet’s paw pads in seconds, so opt for grassy or dirt trails instead. Or, place booties on your pet’s paws to protect their pads from blazing asphalt.
  • Sunburn — The sensitive skin around your pet’s nose, eyes, and ears can become sunburned without protection, as can any other sparsely furred areas on their body. If your pet is going to be outdoors for any length of time, apply pet-safe sunscreen.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma — Pets with light skin pigmentation and fur are at an increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation can increase this risk, so keep your light-colored pet out of direct sunlight as much as possible.

Overheated pets can succumb rapidly to heatstroke without prompt treatment. If you notice your furry pal becoming too hot, take steps to cool them at home, then head to Columbia Pike Animal Hospital for treatment. Our emergency services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so we are always here to care for your pet.