“Mr. and Mrs. Petparent, we are very sorry to inform you that your Reggie is gone. We did everything we could for him, but in the end, the damage was too much and he succumbed to serious heat stroke. We are so very sorry.”
No pet owner would ever want to find themselves on the receiving end of such words. The sheer shock and heartbreak would be overwhelming. One would wonder, “How can this be? All we did was…” Sadly, when it comes to pets and hot weather, this scenario can become all too real for too many families and their beloved pets. With summer here, we wanted to take some time to review some hot weather safety tips for our pets. It does not take long at all for our beloved pets to find themselves in some very dangerous situations when the weather gets hot. In fact, as the temperatures go up and stay up, the chance of our pet suffering from heat stroke increases. Unlike their owners who can sweat to cool off, our dogs cannot. Our 4-legged pals must rely on panting to try and cool down. This is not an efficient way to cool down, especially when it gets very hot outside as it has been lately. As a result, our pet can easily overheat. This is especially true of dogs that have a short muzzle, a thick coat, have heart and lung problems, or are overweight.
During a recent drive through town heading to an appointment, we happened to catch sight of someone riding their bicycle in the opposite direction with their dog trying to keep up with them at the end of a leash. It was the hottest time of the day and that dog seemed to be doing all he could to keep up. Most likely the owner was not purposely placing his dog in a harmful situation, but that is what it had become. What may have started innocently as just a bike ride with the dog through the neighborhood was heading towards a potential emergency situation for that dog. Heat stroke may have been right on the heels of that pup.
Heat stroke is very dangerous, but preventable. Let’s review some practical tips that we can apply to minimize the chances of our pets suffering from heat stroke.
THE CAR: Please DO NOT leave your pet in the car in warm/hot weather. Even with the windows down on a hot day, our pets could die of heat stroke in as little as 10-15 minutes. If your dog does not really need to be with you, please leave him at home when it is hot outside. When traveling with your pet, you want to make sure that you keep a bottle of water and a bowl in the car with you.
WALKS/EXERCISE: During summer, asphalt/cement can become 15-20 degrees hotter than the temperature outside. Hot asphalt/cement is very uncomfortable for bare paws. You may want to schedule walks and outdoor playtimes in early mornings and late evenings. One thing you can do to check if it is safe for your dog to go out for a walk is place the palm of your hand or your bare foot on the asphalt/cement. If it is uncomfortable for you to rest your hand or foot on the cement/asphalt, then it is not safe for your dog. Now, if your schedule only allows you to walk your dogs during the heat of the day, consider walking on the grass instead of the hot street. Be sure to take with you water, both for drinking and misting your pet down .
How do you know if your pet is overheating? Look for sluggish behavior and bright red, dry tongue and gums; very hard panting and elevated heart rate; vomiting or diarrhea. If your pet is showing any of these signs, bring him to a cool room and contact your veterinarian immediately. On the way to your veterinarian, use wet towels, ice cubes held under chin and on belly and paws, and mist down with cool water in a spray bottle. You MUST begin reducing their body temperature. Heat stroke is as an emergency! Within minutes pets that overheat can develop brain damage, kidney problems, and bleeding disorders; go into a coma and die. Remember: heat stroke is preventable.
Here are some additional practical tips that can be applied for the safety and health of our pets during the heat of summer.
COOLANT SPILL WARNING: Antifreeze is deadly. Your pet does not need to lick up much antifreeze off of the asphalt/cement for him/her to become deathly ill. So in addition to the dangers of hot asphalt when out on walks, be sure to be on the lookout for coolant spills when walking your pals in hot weather. Antifreeze is deadly.
SUMMER TRIP TO THE VET: Nice, hot weather tends to bring out creepy critters like fleas, and ticks. With the hot and humid weather we have had, ticks seem to be a bit more common in our area than before. Ticks like to hop on our pets when the weather is nice out and if they are carrying disease, the damage can be devastating. Prevention is always better than treatment, so you will want to consider getting your pals on some safe flea and tick preventatives. And when using preventatives, always be sure to follow the directions of your vet and the products. Why? Because the ASPCA reported that the misuse of insecticides came in 2nd place in the 2011 List of Top 10 Pet Toxins.
We hope that these tips prove beneficial to both you and your 4-legged pals. Taking the appropriate precautions with our pets during the heat of summer will ensure that a fun and safe time will be had by all. Until next time, may your pet be a happy pet!