Summer Pet Care – How to Prevent Heat Stress

Summer is almost here and all pet professionals should be aware of the dangers of the summer heat to our pets.

Last summer my husband relayed to me an incident that a workmate had with his dog. He and his wife left their two dogs out in the yard while they attended church on Sunday morning. The dogs had plenty of shade and water but when they returned home and let the dogs in the house one of them collapsed on the floor. Believing that the dog was suffering from heat stress they doused him with cold water and then consulted the internet to check on the typical symptoms. Their research told them to check the gums of their dog as the gums of pets suffering from heat stress will be bright red. When they checked their dog they found that the gums were grey. They rushed him to the vet and their dog was diagnosed with a ruptured tumor in the stomach.Â

As pet care professionals we should be able to immediately recognize the symptoms of heat stress. I did my own research and found that heat stress can set in within 10 minutes of a pet’s exposure to high heat environment and can have serious long term effects such as blood clotting and organ failure.  But don’t be too alarmed – heat stress can be easily prevented. With the summer months of high temperatures ahead of us it’s important for us all to be aware of the risk to our pets, minimize the danger, and be able act quickly to recognize the symptoms and take the correct treatment steps. Typically we hear about dogs suffering from heat stress but cats are also at risk. Pets with dark, heavy coats, and dogs with short noses such as Pugs, Pekinese and Boxers are most susceptible to heat. Heat stress occurs when the pet’s body temperature rises above 107F. Above this temperature cells begin to break down and die, and can also produce chemicals that damage the surrounding cells.Â

To minimize the risk of heat stress never leave pets in vehicles or tied out in the direct sunlight during warm, sunny days… even a few minutes can be critical. Always provide them with plenty of cool water to drink. Flea markets and other outdoor activities are often the worst place to bring a dog on a hot summer day.   Factors that increase an animal’s risk of developing heat stroke include: Â – Â water deprivation, enclosed space, Â excessive humidity, obesity, exercise, age, cardiovascular disease and lack of acclimatizationÂ

Symptoms of heat stress that you should look for include: Â – intense, rapid panting, wide eyes, salivating, staggering, weakness, dark red gums , Â respiratory distress or hyperventilationAdvanced heat stroke victims will collapse and become unconscious. If you notice your pet suffering from any of these symptoms and are close to a veterinary hospital it is advisable to take you pet immediately. Otherwise, you need to get the pets body temperature down by placing them in a tub of cool running water or spraying with a hose. Be sure that the water contacts the skin and doesn’t simply run off the coat. Thoroughly wet the belly and inside the legs. Take the pets temperature rectally if possible. Cool only until body temperature lowers to 103F. It is possible to cause hypothermia if the pets body temperature falls to low. Once the pet has been cooled veterinary attention should be sought as soon as possible.