The Effects of Heat on Pets
While we all welcome the warmth that summer brings, one of the biggest risks your pets face during the summer is the heat. Pets release heat through the pads of their feet and by panting, not sweating. This makes an animal’s body much less efficient at regulating heat and body temperature than a human’s. In order to prevent serious heat-related problems, it’s good to know some extra care tips your pets will need.
Heat stroke is one of the biggest concerns during the summer. This happens when the animal’s internal cooling system goes into overtime and eventually stops working, causing the body temperature to rise to the point where brain damage and other internal damage can occur. A pet’s normal temperature is 100.5-102.5º Fahrenheit, but heat stroke can cause temperatures up to 104-110º Fahrenheit, which can be deadly.
Dehydration is also a common problem during the summer. Without an adequate supply of water, pets can become dehydrated in just a few hours. Water is necessary for every body function, and just a 10% loss of body water can lead to serious illnesses.
Brachycephalic animals are dogs and cats with a shortened head and nose, such as Boxers, Shih Tzus, Persians or Himalayans. This “pushed-in” look also shortens their nostrils, trachea and other respiratory airways, which occasionally causes breathing difficulties, especially while exercising and during the hot summer months.
Signs of heat problems may include excessive panting, weakness, disorientation, fever, dizziness, excessive thirst, panting or even unconsciousness. If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, you should move them to a shaded or air conditioned area, applying ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest. If your pet is seriously affected, call your veterinarian immediately.
In order to keep your pets active during the summer months, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Make sure your pets have a continual water supply, both at home and while traveling. When they’re outside, protect them from the sun and heat with a exercise pen in a shady, well-ventilated area. Keep walks to a gentle pace, letting them run on the grass, not the hot pavement. Never leave your pets unattended in a car, especially during the heat of the day, when temperatures can reach up to 140º Fahrenheit inside vehicles.
With a little preparation, you can make sure your pets enjoy the summer months as much as your family, without having to worry about the hazardous effects of the heat!