The warm season is upon us here in Kentucky and so too are additional risks for our pets.  We all love to get out more and enjoy the sunny weather when the spring rain clouds finally break, but we need to remember to pay special attention to our 4 legged family members during these months to ensure we keep them healthy and safe.  The doctors and staff here at East Shelbyville Animal Clinic recommend the following guidelines and safety tips to ensure that you are successful in identifying signs of heat stress and are able to prevent life-threatening emergency situations such as heatstroke.

  1. One of the most important things to remember is to never leave your pet alone in the car during warmer weather.  Any time the sun is out and the temperature is over 60 F we recommend that you leave your pets home.  “I’ll never forget an elderly couple traveling home from a specialized cardiac procedure two states away with their small dog.  They stopped for breakfast at the Bob Evans next door to the clinic I worked at a number of years ago and left their dog in the car with the windows cracked.  It was only a moderately warm day with the temperature around 65 F but the sun was shining brightly and when they returned to the car 30 min later their dog was in severe distress and suffering from extreme heatstroke.  Upon arrival to our clinic its body temperature was well over 107 F (normal temperature is around 100.5 F and the patient was unresponsive.  On a day that should have been a happy day they were instead devastated by a decision they made that resulted in the loss of their best friend to heatstroke.”  ~Dr. Hayes
  2. Understand how heat and exercise can impact your pet.  Because our pets don’t sweat they have a more difficult time dissipating heat on hot days.  Take care to ensure that exercise and outdoor time is done safely.  Provide access to shade, plenty of water and avoid taking walks, runs or playing hard games of fetch during the heat of the day (usually between 10 am and 7pm but could be longer if the weather is really warm).  While many pets lose their lives in hot cars every year, another common cause of heatstroke is inappropriate exercise during hot weather.
  3. Recognize the signs of heatstroke
  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Warm dry skin and gums
  • Dark red gums
  • High rectal temperature (Normal body temperature runs around 100.5 to 101.5 F)
  • Vomiting
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Non responsive or collapse

If you note any of these signs remove your pet from the heat and begin cooling methods and contact your veterinarian in preparation for transport.  The following cooling methods can be performed in home:

  • Wet your pet with room temperature water or soak towels in water and drape around and under your pet.
  • Increase air circulation around your pet using fans to help facilitate heat evaporation.
  • Apply rubbing alcohol to your pets paw pads and abdomen to increase heat evaporation.
  • Use caution not to cool your pet too quickly as this can also be detrimental.
  • Once you have contacted your vet, with their help you will be able to determine if your pet can be safely cooled at home, needs in clinic treatment at East Shelbyville Veterinary Clinic or needs 24 hour emergency care from a local specialty clinic.

4.    Be aware of how your pet’s structure and age can contribute to the risk for heatstroke.

  • Short-nosed breeds (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terrier and boxer type dogs and Persian and Himalayan cats) are much more at risk for heatstroke than pets with longer nose structure.  The shape of their facial structure means that their airways are less efficient at heat exchange brought about by panting.
  • Airway disease such as asthma, allergic bronchitis, and tracheal collapse, Laryngeal paralysis (labs and golden retrievers are particularly prone), chronic sinusitis
  • Overweight and Obese Pets (click here to learn more about how to determine if your pet is overweight
  • Heart disease patients
  • Elderly pets ​

​5.    When you do decide to spend time outside on warm days be sure your pet has access to plenty of fresh cool water and shade.  If your dog or cat has areas of skin that are poorly coated or pale you may also want to apply pet friendly sunblock to reduce the risk for sun exposure associated skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma and hemangiomas.

6.     If you have any concerns that the weather may be too warm for your pet, stay indoors.