Summer often brings its own set of dangers for our four-legged friends and the summer of 2020 has added a whole new dynamic to what is supposed to be a relaxing and fun time of the year!
With temperatures in Central Indiana reaching the mid to upper 80s and even over 90 degrees on a few days, it’s important that all pet owners have an awareness of just how this kind of heat can affect our dogs and cats. But first, let’s take a look at how pet’s cool themselves.
Dogs and cats don’t have the numbers of sweat glands like you or I do, so sweating is not an efficient cooling system for them. It’s true that you might find dampness around your dog’s paw pads, but this is not going to help keep them cool during the muggy Indiana days.
Rather than sweating, dogs rely on panting and, to a lesser extent, dilating their blood vessels. Panting allows moisture to evaporate off the mouth and tongue, dissipating heat rising up from the chest. In addition, by dilating blood vessels, internal body heat can be lessened as the blood passes through cooler areas of the skin, like the ears and face.
Our feline friends actually add a few other tricks…they also will sweat a little, but you might note that your cat grooms more during the heat of the summer. This grooming behavior places excess saliva on the skin and hair coat and as the saliva evaporates, kitty can cool down. Cats also are REALLY good at finding nice cool places to hide during the heat of the day, often in an elevated perch where they can catch the breeze!
The biggest problem for our pets at this time of year is heatstroke. Heatstroke can occur after exercise, due to being left in a hot car, or being left unattended outside without having access to shade or water. This can be an emergency situation, so if you note ANY of the following symptoms, you need to act quickly:
· Bright (brick) red gum color
· Rapid heart rate
· Excessive panting
· Thick, ropey saliva
If these signs are seen, get your pet inside to a cooler environment immediately. Use tepid (cool) water on the feet and belly to try and begin the cooling process. Do NOT give ice or use ice packs. A cool soaking wet towel can be draped on the dog as well. Call your veterinarian or the closest animal emergency hospital, let them know you are concerned about your dog having heatstroke, and that you are on your way. Time is crucial as the longer the pet’s core body temperature is elevated, the worse the prognosis for the pet.
As a side note, cats will pant when hot, but panting is not normal for cats. If you see your feline friend panting like your dog, an examination by your veterinarian is warranted. If the panting is on-going, despite access to water and a calm, cool environment, take your kitty in immediately.
You might also want to change your pet’s exercise routine at this time of year. Blacktop surfaces and even concrete can be very warm to the touch and actually burn your pet’s paw pads. If you place the back of your hand on the blacktop and you can’t maintain contact for at least 5 seconds, it’s too hot for your pet. Consider early morning walks or sunset strolls to avoid this potential injury.
Next, use common sense…we all know how much our dogs love to run errands with us and go for car rides, but each year we seen far too many pets suffer needlessly in hot cars as their owners either got delayed in the store or misjudged just how hot the day had gotten. The interior of your car could be about 20 degrees warmer than the actual outside temperature. It only takes about 10 minutes for the interior of your car to go from 85 degrees to 102 degrees. Young, overweight, and short faced breeds (like Pugs and Bulldogs) are at highest risk for overheating. Best advice…leave your pets at home!
Finally, 2020 has been a year full of surprises. Many veterinary hospitals are still seeing patients, but not allowing clients into the building and they are doing c
arside check-ins. With the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) still looming, the intimacy of a veterinary exam room does not really allow for proper social distancing. So, please be patient with the hard-working veterinary teams…they are continuing to work diligently for your pet’s health. If you are concerned about your pet waiting in the parking lot or if your car’s air conditioning is not working, let your veterinary team know when you arrive. They can likely at least take your pet inside to help avoid any unnecessary risks due to the heat.
What’s your favorite summertime activity with your furry friend?