Keep Pets Cool in the Summer Heat

Summer brings with it an expectation of sweltering temperatures, sometimes to the point of danger.

As temperatures climb, remember that if you are hot, your pet is probably feeling even hotter. Dogs and cats generate more heat than people and usually also have a thick layer of fur to trap that heat inside.

Pug in a mini pool

Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has some tips on identifying signs that your pet may be too hot and suggestions on ways to keep them safe and cool on hot summer days.

While people sweat all over to get rid of excess heat, dogs and cats are only able to sweat through their paw pads.

Most pets rely on panting to cool down, but animals with shorter noses, like Bulldogs and Persian cats, tend to be less heat tolerant, meaning they have a harder time getting rid of excess body heat.

“Very young and older animals, especially those with underlying conditions, are also less heat tolerant than healthy adult animals,” Rutter said. “If you hear snoring, coughing, or gurgling when your pet tries to pant or gets excited, it’s not going to be heat tolerant.”

Factors such as obesity, long hair, and medications can also make pets more sensitive to heat. If any of these apply to your pet, Rutter advises talking to a veterinarian about increased heat sensitivity.

Luckily, there are many things people can do to help their pets cool down on hot days. The simplest solution is to keep pets inside an air-conditioned building, but there are other options if the pet will be spending time outside.

“Shade, cool water to drink or play in, a fan, and a cool surface such as grass help pets cool down–just like how we seek out a glass of lemonade, a shady spot to rest, and a breeze when we are too hot,” Rutter said.

Cats usually limit their own activity and seek out shade if they get too hot but should still be provided a fresh source of water and should be not be put outside for the first time during the summer.

Working, agility, and motivated dogs, like retrievers or game dogs, however, may not slow down when they get too hot, so owners should be mindful to limit their activity as the temperature rises, according to Rutter.

“Any dog that wants to take a break, doesn’t want to walk, or is panting heavily should be given fresh, cool water and a shady spot to rest until their breathing normalizes and they want to return to activity,” Rutter said. “Avoid exercise during the heat of the day and take a 10- to 15-minute break to cool down every 15 to 20 minutes when the temperature is over 80 degrees.”

If an animal cannot get rid of excess heat, it may develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke; environmental temperature, humidity, and the pet’s activity level can all play a role in developing these conditions.

“Heat exhaustion is the feeling of lethargy, discomfort, or weakness that is experienced when the body gets too hot,” Rutter said. “It’s the body’s way of saying, ‘slow down!’”

In comparison, heat stroke is an illness caused by increased body temperature. According to Rutter, it is much more serious and can even be life-threatening if not caught early.

If a pet is showing signs of heat exhaustion, it should be wet down with cool (not cold) water and be put near a blowing fan in a shaded, air-conditioned area.

If the pet vomits, acts lethargic, has red gums, or seems to have small, red bruises on its mouth, eyes, or abdomen it should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible. If you are unsure of whether it is an emergency situation, it is better to have the pet checked out just in case, because heat stroke can cause serious damage very quickly.

Rutter also reminds pet owners that it is dangerous to leave a pet inside a parked car during any time of the year, but especially during the summer; in as little as 15 minutes, the inside of a car can become lethally hot.

The best way to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke is to be aware of the amount of time a pet spends outside in the summer and to watch for any symptoms of these conditions. With these simple precautions, pet owners can ensure that their dogs and cats stay safe during the worst of summer.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Tips for Safe Travel with Pets

Summer is the season for fun vacations with the whole family, often including pets.

Before hitting the road, Kit Darling, infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has some helpful tips for keeping pets safe and calm during road trips, plane rides, and any other type of trip away from home.

The Magnificent Dog Car

Just like people need to wear seat belts in the car, pets also need to be strapped in to stay safe. Pets can be secured with a harness that attaches to the seat belt or they can travel in a well-ventilated crate.

“Before attempting a car ride, acclimate your pet to the harness or crate,” Darling said. “Begin with short rides and then gradually increase the time in the car, taking frequent breaks every two to three hours to allow the pet to get some exercise and go to the bathroom.”

Pets should never be allowed to ride unrestricted in a truck bed or be left alone in a parked vehicle, as heat builds very quickly and can be extremely dangerous.

“Do not allow your pet to ride with his head outside of the window as dirt and other debris can enter the eyes, nose, and ears causing injury or infection,” Darling advised.

If traveling by airplane, pets will need to ride in an approved crate for the full flight. If the pet is not small enough for its crate to fit under a passenger seat in the cabin, it will have to ride in the cargo bay of the plane.

“Contact the airline to find out what they require for pets traveling on planes,” Darling said. “The airline may have a restriction on breed, size, or age of the animal. Most airlines also require a health certificate issued by a veterinarian within 10 days of travel.”

No matter how the pet will be traveling, there are many ways to make sure it stays safe and comfortable upon arrival.

First, Darling advises double-checking that pets are welcome at the destination, even if the host will be a friend or family member. Good pet manners, such as using a leash and cleaning up after the pet, can help make sure they stay welcome throughout the trip.

“Whenever leaving the pet alone, put it in a crate and leave your contact information,” Darling said. “In a hotel or motel, put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, inform the front desk, and leave your contact information.”

When traveling with a pet, all supplies needed for that pet’s care should be brought along. Darling recommends packing a separate bag with the pet’s food, bowls, medications, toys, proof of rabies vaccination, veterinarian contact information, and any other necessary supplies.

Bringing along a familiar blanket or towel with the pet’s or the owner’s scent can help the animal feel relaxed in a strange place.

Pets may be tempted to run away if nervous, so they should be microchipped and/or wearing a collar with current contact information on the tag. Darling also recommends labeling the pet’s crate with contact information, especially for airplane travel.

Most importantly, remember to show your pet plenty of love and attention to help it feel safe, calm, and happy in an unfamiliar environment. Summer vacations are more fun when the entire family is having a good time.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Protecting your Pet from the Summer Heat

dog in summer heatSummer time in Texas means more time to play outside, go swimming, and soak up the sun. However, warmer temperatures also mean that pets may be more susceptible to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. To help pet owners avoid these risks, Dr. Stacy Eckman, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offered some insight.

“Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are major problems for pets in the summer, especially in short nosed breeds, such a pug or a bulldog,” Eckman said.  “These conditions can occur during hot and humid days and even cooler days, if your pets aren’t accustomed to the heat.”

Heat exhaustion is the early stages of a heat stroke and causes lethargy, vomiting, and weakness. Following continued exercise or exposure to heat, Eckman said a heat stroke can occur with more severe signs, including extreme lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and pale mucous membranes.  This can lead significant problems up to and including death if not recognized and treated immediately.

Other dangers pets may face in the summer heat include paw pad burns from walking on hot concrete. If your dog is going to be active outside when it is hot, be sure to keep them off concrete or asphalt for extended periods of time. You can also provide your pet with other means of exercise, such as playing indoors or in the grass.

Eckman added that leaving pets in the car or bed of a truck is also a bad idea. This can also lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

“Even if there is a breeze outside, there is no shade or water in the bed of a truck, so the temperature can really heat up,” Eckman said.

Though it may seem like a quick-fix to put your pet in cold water if they do become overheated, Eckman said it is best to slowly cool down your pet to avoid causing more internal heat.

“Some people will try to provide ice water baths for overheated pets; this can actually make them retain heat internally,” Eckman said. “Instead, bring the overheated pet inside and provide them with cool water and a fan. Wetting a towel and putting it on the pet’s coat also may be helpful.”

Other tips for keeping your pet cool during the summer include providing a dog house, a shallow kiddie pool, and enough cool water. Also, try to exercise your pet during the cooler parts of the day, such as the morning or evening.

Whether your pet lives primarily indoors or outdoors, it is important to protect your pet from the heat this summer season.

 

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu .