If your dog stays outdoors during the day or has access to the yard, make sure there’s reliable shade and fresh water available as the sun moves.
After a cold and rainy winter, temps are starting to sizzle. That means it’s time to think about your pet’s safety and well-being while he’s outdoors — and indoors, too. Heat exhaustion is one of the risks facing dogs and cats in summer. Here’s what you might not have known about recognizing and preventing it, as well as protecting pets from other effects of heat.
Heat exhaustion or heatstroke can sneak up on pets and people. It doesn’t occur just in hot cars or after playing too strenuously in the hot sun. Brachycephalic pets — think pugs, Persians, bulldogs and other short-nosed breeds — can die indoors if the power goes off, leaving them for hours with no air conditioning. Sign up for power outage alerts from your local provider, or look for an app that will notify you so you can get home or ask a neighbor or petsitter to make sure your pets don’t overheat.
Those same breeds can develop difficulty breathing after just a few minutes outdoors when temperatures and humidity are high. That’s because they rely on the ability to pant to dissipate heat. Pets with heart disease, conditions such as laryngeal paralysis in large breeds such as Labrador retrievers or Newfoundlands, or collapsing trachea — especially common in toy breeds — as well as very young or old dogs are also at greater risk.
“Even just taking your brachycephalic or obese dog or dog with existing bronchitis or certain heart conditions on a walk in the middle of the day could result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke and a trip to the emergency hospital,” says veterinarian Jason Nicholas, chief medical officer of PreventiveVet.com. “We tend to see a lot of cases in the spring and fall,” he says. “In spring, people aren’t really yet thinking about the heat, and sometimes you’ll get those uncharacteristically warm days. In fall, people tend to let their guard down after summer and then we get those warm days that spring up unexpectedly.”
If your dog stays outdoors during the day or has access to the yard, make sure there’s reliable shade and fresh water available as the sun moves. A number of pet beds, some elevated for better air flow, come with covers. Look for one with fabric made to block the sun’s rays. An outdoor misting fan is another option to consider. In extreme temperatures, though, your dog will be cooler, safer and happier in the air-conditioned indoors.
A pup tent or soft crate made of similar fabric provides sun protection for dogs at agility or nose work trials or just having fun at the beach. Shade sails, canopies and tarps made of UV-resistant fabric are available at big-box stores and online. Regular misting from a handheld sprayer on the belly and paws helps keep pets cool, too.
Cooling boots can protect paws from hot asphalt, concrete or sand on walks. Better yet, schedule walks and play for cooler mornings and evenings.
A cooling mat or cooling coat or bandana can help your pet, but don’t rely on it for full protection on hot days. A cooling coat won’t allow your dog to participate in strenuous exercise or stay in a hot car for long periods. “The main thing with keeping them cool is paying attention to the temperature outside and their activity level and existing health conditions,” Nicholas says.
Most important, be your dog’s caretaker. He may love sprawling in full sun on hot concrete in 100-degree temps, but it’s smart to reduce the risk of sunburn or heatstroke by limiting sunbathing time. Keep him indoors or in a shady spot between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Marty Becker and journalist Kim Campbell Thornton of Vetstreet.com. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker.