Once the temperatures in the Northeast rise to full-on summer highs, life becomes difficult for pet parents. Long walks, the lunchtime run and road trips, things you enjoy together quite safely for the rest of the year, can become dangerous because excessive exercise in hot sun or leaving animals in a car even with the windows cracked, even in the shade, can cause heatstroke, which can be fatal.
“Heatstroke is a condition where a dog’s temperature is elevated to the point where damage to internal organs can occur,” warns Dr. Cindy Bressler, veterinarian consultant for Wellness Natural Pet Food. “This is usually seen during the summer months or in warm climates, and is caused because the dog cannot cool himself quickly enough.”
Because of their fur coats, dogs can’t cool via sweating through the skin like humans and they cool themselves by panting, quickly pulling cool air into the lungs and pushing hot air out. Dogs with respiratory tract abnormalities or disease, and certain breeds like Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers, are more prone to heatstroke, as are overweight dogs, too. Signs of heatstroke include heavy panting or difficulty breathing, drooling, vomiting, collapse, high body temperatures and the tongue may appear to be bright red. With dehydration, pets can become restless or visibly lethargic.
“Dogs do not sweat like humans, and without this natural body cool-off response, they are more vulnerable than humans in high temperatures,” says Bressler. “To help prevent heatstroke, always have cool water available for your dog and never leave your dog alone in a car, especially in hot weather. Pets who are outdoors should always have access to a shaded area.”
Should heatstroke occur, Bressler advises cooling your pet with cool water, wet towels, fans and cold air.
“Do not cool them too quickly because that can be dangerous,” she adds. “Bring them to the vet immediately.”
Cats also run the risk overheating and are particularly prone to dehydration: “With cats,” says Bressler, “it’s important to encourage moisture in their diet as they do not seek out water like dogs do. When a diet is low in liquids, you could be setting your cat up for urinary tract problems down the road. Cats should always have access to fresh, clean water."