Pet Vet: Be a cool pet owner — protect your pooch from the heat

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Our endless winter is at an end. That makes it time for my yearly reminder that too much heat can be fatal for pets.

High temps and increased humidity can cause overheating, heat stroke, and heat-related collapse in your pets. The two most common causes are hot cars and excessive outdoor play on warm days.

Running errands with your dog may be fun on cool days, but during summer months it doesn't take long for your car to turn into an oven. According to the ASPCA, it only takes 10 minutes on an 85-degree day for the inside of a car to reach 102 degrees, even with the windows left open.

Don't be fooled on 70-degree days — the interior of your car can heat up to 20 degrees hotter than it is outside.

In the summer, just don't bring your dog along if you have to leave them unattended in the car. End of lecture.


Inappropriate exercise

How can you tell if it's too hot to play with your pet? Use common sense. If you're sweating just standing still, it's too hot for your dogs to do much more than stroll around outside with their tongues dragging on the ground. Make sure they have access to cool water at all times.

Remember, dogs can't sweat. They can only pant to get rid of excess body heat, which makes it much easier for them to overheat. Short-nosed breeds are most susceptible to heat stroke. Other pets at increased risk are overweight pets, elderly pets, and those with heart or lung conditions.

Fun outdoor activities can turn deadly in the heat. Schedule exercise during the early morning or late evening hours, when the outdoor temperature is the coolest. Some days it is best not to exercise at all. Don't expect Frisbee or ball-obsessed dogs to know when to quit. It's up to you to cut playtime short when it is hot outside.

Use extreme caution when biking with your dog. Remember that you get the better breeze and the easier exercise. Pay close attention to any signs your pooch may be struggling to keep up.

Signs and treatment of heat stroke

Signs of overheating include heavy panting, drooling, difficulty breathing, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, a glassy-eyed look, loss of coordination, and collapse.

But what if the worst happens? You're outside playing fetch, when suddenly your dog staggers and collapses to the ground, still clutching the ball in his mouth.


Heat stroke is an emergency situation. You need to act fast. Grab a garden hose and check the water temperature. Run out any hot water before spraying the cooler water over your dog's feet, belly, legs, and back. Avoid your dog's head in case he can't swallow.

After a few minutes of this, get him into the car, and drive quickly to the vet's office with the air conditioning cranked on high.

At the vet's office, his temperature will be checked (normal temperature for a dog is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees, but overheated dogs often soar up to 106 degrees), a very brief physical exam may be performed, and then he'll probably be rushed in back for more cooling procedures.

To keep your pets safe, just pay attention to the temperature outside and adjust your activities accordingly.


Ann M. Anderson, DVM, is a veterinarian at Quarry Hill Park Animal Hospital in Rochester.

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