Use H.E.A.T to Keep Your Pet Cool

When you are enjoying an icy cold drink while in a shaded, refreshingly cool swimming pool, the summer heat feels great. But, if you are out in the blazing sun, the heat can be absolutely brutal, especially for pets, who can quickly overheat and experience organ failure and death. Help your pet avoid a heat-related injury this summer by following our Madison Veterinary Emergency team’s easy-to-remember Hydration Emergencies Asphalt Transportation—H.E.A.T—guidelines. 

H = Hydration: Water, water, everywhere for your pet

When the temperature skyrockets, pets need plenty of fresh, cool water throughout the day to avoid dehydration. Because your pet will likely drink more in the summer, regularly check to ensure their water bowl is full. You might want to set your phone alarm to remind yourself. 

You can add ice cubes to your pet’s bowl to keep their water cool, but ensure the ice cubes do not deter your pet from taking a drink. To provide your pet additional hydration, add some canned food or water to their dry food, and offer them hydrating, pet-friendly treats on especially hot days. Keep an eye out for pets’ dehydration signs, which include:

  • Reduced energy
  • Dry nose 
  • Dry gums
  • Panting
  • Inappetence

Remember also to keep your pet hydrated while on the go. Bring water and your pet’s portable drinking bowl when hiking or at the park on hot days. 

E = Emergencies: Get hot pets to a cool place immediately

Although your overheating risk increases on a hot summer day, your pet’s overheating risk is higher, because their bodies do not regulate their temperature as efficiently as ours. Pets must pant with their mouths open to regulate their body temperature. Panting evaporates moisture from the lungs’ moist lining and from the tongue. Pets have more difficulty cooling down in hot, humid weather because the outside environment is also very moist, and less cooling evaporation occurs. The higher the humidity level, the lower the temperature necessary to cause your pet’s overheating. 

When your pet’s body temperature rises above the normal range of 100 to 102.2 degrees, they are at a high risk of heatstroke and other heat-related conditions. Untreated heatstroke can quickly lead to organ failure and death. Certain breeds, like short-muzzled (i.e., brachycephalic) pugs and bulldogs, have a high overheating risk, and you should monitor them closely during hot weather. Learn to detect your pet’s overheating signs, so you can act fast if your pet exhibits them. Common heatstroke signs include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Drooling
  • Red gums
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Fast heart rate
  • Dull or distant look
  • Lethargy 
  • Weakness
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

If your pet shows overheating signs, bring them indoors, and put them in a bath with the cool water running. Do not use ice-cold water, because the rapid temperature change can be dangerous. If possible, use a rectal thermometer to monitor your pet’s temperature. Keep your pet in the cool water until their temperature decreases to 103 degrees or lower, and then take them to the nearest emergency clinic to have them evaluated for potential organ failure.  

A = Asphalt: Hot surfaces can burn, baby, burn pets’ feet 

When you are wearing shoes, you can easily forget how scorchingly hot the pavement can be. Surfaces such as asphalt and metal absorb the sun’s heat, and can burn your pet’s paw pads. Before your pet sets foot on a surface, test its temperature by placing the back of your hand on the ground. If you cannot keep your hand comfortably in place for 10 seconds, your pet will burn their paw pads. During the summer, avoid walking your pet in the middle of the day when the temperature tends to be the hottest. Instead, try to walk your pet during the early morning and late evening, when the temperature and paved surfaces are much cooler. 

T = Transportation: Never leave your pet in an oven 

Leaving your pet unattended in the car is never a good idea, but when the temperature heats up, this practice can be deadly. Parking your vehicle in the shade, leaving water inside, or cracking open the windows is not enough to keep the vehicle’s interior temperature at a tolerable level, which can become dangerously high in minutes. When heading out to complete some errands—or a quick run to the store—leave your pet at home, where they are safe and cool. 

Think of H.E.A.T as an easy-to-remember acronym for the four guidelines to keeping your pet safe and cool. Here’s to you and your pet enjoying plenty of pool days this summer while avoiding a heat-related emergency. However, should your pet show overheating signs, take action quickly, and contact our Madison Veterinary Emergency team.