As we start to emerge from our pandemic cocoons and spend more time outside, many of those adventures may include our pets, especially dogs. Whether out on a hike, traveling by car or even an ‘everyday’ walk around the neigbourhood, be on the lookout for the effects of spring and summer heat on your pet.
How animals overheat
Excessive exercise, dehydration and inadequate shade or shelter can cause your pet to overheat quickly in hot and humid weather. Be sure they have plenty of fresh water and breaks in the shade. Consider walking your dog in the early morning and late afternoon or evening to avoid the scorching heat of the day. Keep playtime short and always be mindful of the signs of overheating—excessive panting, muscle twitching, anxious or dazed look, vomiting, lethargy, increased drooling or diarrhea.
In addition, be mindful of potentially hot surfaces such as asphalt, concrete or sand. The summer sun can heat these surfaces to dangerous temperatures that can quickly injure your pets’ sensitive paws.
Older, more obese or short-nosed dogs (like Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers) should be watched extra carefully as they are not able to pant as efficiently as other breeds, making them especially susceptible to over-heating. Puppies, kittens, and pets with health issues should also be carefully monitored. Keep these guys in cool, air-conditioned areas as often as you can.
What to do if you think your pet is overheating
As noted above, watch for symptoms of heatstroke – excessive panting, muscle twitching, an anxious or dazed look, vomiting, lethargy, increased drooling, and diarrhea.
If you suspect heatstroke or difficulty due to the heat, move your pet to a cool and shaded area as soon as possible. Provide them with cool, not cold, water. If you have a fan, direct the fan on them. Then, with cool, damp towels, slowly and carefully begin dabbing the back of their neck, in the armpits, and around the groin area. As soon as you are able, get them to a veterinarian as heat stroke can cause permanent health issues or even death.
Pets and vehicles
Every year, the RHS sees heart-breaking stories of pets suffering distress or even dying of heatstroke after being left in a parked vehicle. Each of these sad stories is completely avoidable.
Here are some facts:
The inside of a vehilce can become a death trap for pets whether it’s sunny or cloudy, hot or humid or mild or breezy. Rolling down the windows does little as temperatures can still soar in minutes. Leaving the vehicle and air-conditioning running is also a poor solution – engines fail, temperatures can still reach dangerous levels and even small dogs can trigger window buttons and door locks.
Dogs do not have the ability to sweat through glands in the skin to keep cool. While they do sweat somewhat through their paws (not very effective if standing on a hot car seat), they pant in an attempt to keep cool. Unfortunately, the combination of a fur coat and a hot vehicle, makes this method woefully inadequate as a cooling method.
What to do if you find a pet in a vehicle
In Regina, call RHS Animal Protection Services, 306-777-7700 or call the local police.
In the meantime, record the time you found the dog and take down the license plate and car information, as these details may assist in an investigation. If you can, try to locate the owner, but remain calm as confrontation will do little to help the situation or the animal.
Assess the situation. Check for signs of overheating—excessive panting, glazed eyes, fatigue, dazed (look like they are “out of it”), or vomiting. If the animal is unresponsive to your approach, they could be suffering from heatstroke. If you can, offer the animals some cool water until help arrives.