Hot weather can be nice, yet uncomfortable for most people. However, for pets, hot, sultry weather can be dangerous.
According to Dr. Andrew Federer, a veterinarian at East Side Mobile Pet Vet in Cleveland, and Ron Turk, office manager at Lyndhurst Animal Clinic in Lyndhurst, pets can be exposed to serious health risks in the summer.
“The first problem is dogs left in cars,” Turk said. “Any time it gets above 70 degrees, the chance of a dog overheating in a car becomes exponentially worse. Dogs don’t sweat as people do, they pant. If a dog is panting hot air, it’s not going to help them. And when walking dogs, it’s too hot on asphalt. If you put the back of your hand on the ground and it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.”
Turk said because of the heat, it is the prime season for unwanted critters like fleas and ticks.
“Of all the other things, heat and weather can fluctuate, but fleas and ticks will always be around,” he said. “Make sure you keep your pets protected. Fleas are looking for forever homes, but a tick isn’t that kind of insect. They are the type that jumps on a pet, does what it needs to do and then jumps off, making them hard to control. Ultimately, these kinds of parasites can also affect your pet’s health.”
Federer added pets are more susceptible to these dangers because warmer weather means more time outside.
“Because of this, what you find more often are more traumatic injuries, especially for dogs and outdoor cats,” he noted. “Whether that is involved with getting into a scuffle with another pet or a wild animal, or orthopedic injuries like ligaments that are strained, pulled or torn.”
But with heat-related conditions, Federer said the problem is most pets don’t know when to stop when they aren’t feeling well.
“Especially with younger dogs, it falls on the owner to restrict activities in the heat as dogs can overheat quickly,” he said. “Heat stroke is a true emergency that we see with companion animals. They can become very sick very quickly, and it’s dangerous enough that it can be life-threatening.”
Both professionals said most problems arise from high temperatures and exposure to the sun.
“Not only can paws become burned, but hot pavement increases their body temperature much faster,” Federer explained. “Their core body temperature rises, and that is where the dangers of heatstroke come in. Animals that are left out on the driveway or patio overheat much quicker than a pet in the grass.”
Turk agreed, adding, “Even in the shade on a hot day, it’s still going to be hot for that pet. But with the sun and humidity added to that, it makes it three times worse. Dogs sweat through their paws and panting, so hot air is not going to relieve them.”
There are clear signs that point to a pet suffering from heat exposure.
“You’d look for excessive panting, and if they are very hot to the touch, or if they aren’t moving well,” Turk said. “But, if the dog is doing anything that isn’t normal for them, it’s worth it to check.”
Federer added, “You will see them become more lethargic and they will be panting more. They will have an increased respiratory rate. Signs that things are starting to get dangerous is they will develop GI (gastrointestinal) upset and can vomit.”
If a pet owner notices these signs, there are a few things they can do to prevent real damage.
“You want to move them quickly into a cool environment, or at least cooling them down with water on their paws instead of just dousing them with a hose,” Federer said. “If their body temp is too high and you cool them off too quickly, it can cause an inflammatory shock reaction. Overall prevention is that if it is too hot for you, it’s twice as hot for a pet in a fur coat. Limit their outside activity.”
Turk suggested pets stay hydrated.
“If you’re going for a walk, make sure water is readily available,” he said. “It goes along the same lines as people, so air conditioning and fans help. Also, dogs will try to match your pace. So, if you’re a runner, don’t take them on runs with you on hot days.”