The summer sun in Texas is no joke, and things heat up quickly this time of year. With temperatures forecasted to soar past 100 degrees this week, you want to take special precautions to protect your pet from heat-related dangers. Whether you have a dainty Yorkie or a rough-and-tumble Labrador retriever, your fur-coat-wearing friend can overheat quickly, and end up needing emergency treatment. Keep your furry pal cool and safe, by following these six tips to help you both beat the dangerous heat and humidity.

#1: Recognize heat exhaustion and heatstroke signs in your pet

Heat exhaustion occurs when your pet’s body temperature rises above 103 degrees. If your pet overdoes it playing fetch, or falls asleep in the hot sun, they can quickly overheat and develop heat exhaustion signs, such as:

  • Excessive panting
  • Thick, ropy drool
  • Lethargy
  • Stumbling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If your pet is acting abnormally after spending time in the heat, you’ll need to act quickly to prevent heat exhaustion from progressing to life-threatening heatstroke, which can cause more serious signs that may include:

  • Collapse
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Internal organ damage
  • Death 

Although any pet can develop heat exhaustion, some pets are at higher risk, including brachycephalic (i.e., flat-faced), older, and overweight pets, and pets with chronic or debilitating diseases.

#2: Know how to cool your pet down

If your pet develops heat exhaustion signs, bringing their body temperature back to normal before heatstroke develops is most important. To cool your pet safely, follow these steps:

  1. Bring your pet out of the heat, into an air-conditioned building.
  2. Place your pet in a bathtub, and run cool water over them. Never use cold water, which will cause your pet’s surface vessels to constrict, shunting warm blood to their delicate internal organs. Also, avoid placing wet towels over your pet, which can trap the heat.
  3. Position a fan to blow on your pet, to enhance the cooling process via evaporation.
  4. Take your pet’s rectal temperature every five minutes, and stop cooling methods when it reaches 103 degrees. Remove your pet from the water, and dry them off, to prevent them from cooling further. 
  5. If your pet does not improve in 10 minutes, or has more severe heatstroke signs (i.e., unconsciousness or seizures), take them immediately to the nearest veterinary hospital for emergency treatment. 
  6. After cooling your pet, bring them to see our veterinary team at Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital for immediate evaluation. Heatstroke can cause life-threatening organ damage that does not become apparent until days after the event, so an assessment, including blood work to evaluate organ function, is critical.

#3: Prevent your pet from overheating

Prevention is definitely the best medicine when it comes to heat-related illnesses. Institute safety measures at home that will prevent your pet from developing heat exhaustion or heatstroke when you venture out. Keep your pet’s health and safety in mind, and encourage them to take frequent breaks while playing in your backyard, or hiking with the family. Take your pet to a shady spot, make them rest for a few minutes, and offer cool, fresh water to keep them hydrated.

#4: Exercise your pet during cooler times of the day 

If you and your pet never miss a daily walk, good for you! But, to prevent your pet from overheating, avoid the midday sun, and exercise during the early morning or evening hours. Not only will your pet have more pep in their step, they’ll appreciate the cooler walking surface. During the day, pavement and blacktop absorb the sun’s rays, and heat to dangerously hot temperatures that can burn your pet’s sensitive paw pads. Before you head out, place the back of your hand on the sidewalk—if you can’t comfortably leave your hand there for 5 to 10 seconds, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws. 

#5: Never leave your pet in a parked car

On a 70-degree day, the temperature inside a car can rise to almost 100 degrees in 20 minutes, so imagine what can happen in Texas’ much hotter climate. Our 100-degree days can cause your car’s temperature to rise to dangerous levels in no time. Leaving your pet in a parked car is never safe, for any length of time. Cracking a window offers little relief, and your anxious pet can step on, or bump, the window or air-conditioning controls if you leave the car running while you run into a store for “only a minute.”

#6: Make cooling off fun for your pet

Summer is a time for family fun in the sun, and you can include your four-legged family member, so long as you take safety precautions. Make keeping cool fun, as you would for your two-legged kids. Set up a small kiddie pool with a few inches of fresh, cool water for your fun-loving Lab, or turn on the sprinkler, and let your pooch run through with your kids. As your family cools off with ice cream, let your pet do the same with their own special treat—a Kong filled with canned food, peanut butter, or yogurt and fruit, and frozen. You can include your cat by making tuna-juice-flavored ice cubes—but don’t accidentally add them to your iced tea.

We hope you have a safe, healthy summer with your pet. But, if your pal gets into trouble or overheats, we’re here for you—give us a call for an appointment or advice.