Summer Safety Tips for Pets

By Joe Musielak, DVM, Pilchuck's Small-Animal Emergency Department

Even though we live in an area where our average temperature is around 50° F, we do still see patients that are victims of hyperthermia, or heatstroke.

Hyperthermia can occur when the body's natural cooling mechanisms fail to prevent an elevated body temperature. This can be caused by extreme exertion (such as chasing a ball or Frisbee for prolonged periods on a sunny, hot day) or from being left in a parked car.

Many people think that simply cracking the window will prevent a pet from overheating in the car. Dogs and cats cool themselves by panting and from sweating through the pads on their feet. They do not have nearly as many sweat glands as humans do.

Some of you may be thinking: "Well, my pet can pant in a hot car." The problem arises when the air the animal breathes in is hotter than the air already in the lungs. We have all gotten into a hot car and immediately rolled the windows all the way down and/or turned on the AC, and we are only tolerating the heat for a few minutes. To keep your pet safe, have someone stay in the car with your pet who can leave on the AC ... or just leave your pet at home.

Pets can overheat outdoors as well if they have no access to shade or are on a hot surface. Remember that hot surfaces can burn your pet's feet (parking lots, roads, sidewalks).

It is essential to provide adequate clean drinking water all year, but even more so in the summer. Cool water (in moderation) can also help your pet avoid heatstroke. By now, everyone on social media has likely seen the posting about the dangers of giving pets ice cubes or ice water to drink when they are hot. In moderation, ice water or ice is acceptable. (Note that cool water is probably better.)

Many of you with large dogs have probably seen your dog gulp down a full bowl or even a bucket of water after playing vigorously ... only to vomit it right back up. If your pet has been playing hard or the temperatures are high that day, allow your pet to drink small amounts frequently. Thirst receptors are located in the brain, and it takes a little while for the message to reach the point where it will tell your pet "enough."

If you have questions about how best to keep your animal companions safe in the warmer months, contact your veterinarian.

PVH offers comprehensive and 24/7 emergency care. Call 360.568.3113 for appointments. Located in Snohomish.

Article added 7.19.14