Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 11, 2012

Don't let your pet become a victim of the heat


— — Swimming, barbecuing and experiencing the other joys of summer also means welcoming the heat. As temperatures rise this time of year, it is critical to protect pets from heat exhaustion. 

No single temperature is considered too hot for animals, but temperatures in the high-80s and above can pose problems for pets, said Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.  Generally, if it's too hot for the pet's owner to be outside, it's too hot for the pet.

Each pet differs in the amount of heat it can endure. For example, cats are usually more tolerant of heat than dogs and can often find a shady place to lounge.


Overweight dogs and brachycephalic dogs, or short-nosed dogs such as bulldogs, are at greater risk of heat stroke or exhaustion, even over short periods, she said. 


Dogs genetically sensitive to heat or not acclimated to the heat, such as indoor dogs, are also at higher risk. Dogs with long, thick coats as well as those with short, thin coats can become overheated.

Even dogs that routinely exercise vigorously can become overheated in the late spring and early days of summer.


“The perfect example of this is a dog who goes to the dog park on a nice, warm spring day, when they have not been all winter, and they play with a Frisbee and run more than normal,” she said.

Eckman recommends taking precautions for all types of dogs.

The first symptoms of heat exhaustion, she said, generally are lethargy and listlessness. “They pant to try to cool themselves and can be anxious as they try to find a cool place,” she said.


If pets are outside for too long and become overheated, they can develop diarrhea and vomiting, which could lead to shock, she said. 


Eckman recommends immediately taking a pet with these symptoms to a veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment. She stresses that pet owners should not put cold water or ice packs on the animal because that makes it harder for them to cool off.


To prevent heat exhaustion, Eckman suggests providing shade and fans for pets. She also emphasizes the importance of having enough water for pets.


“Dogs cool themselves by panting, and this can dehydrate them, so they will need more water than you may think,” she said.


It's also crucial to not overwork animals. Start slowly when exercising.


“Take breaks during exercise or play to make sure they cool down and off,” she said.


Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.