With summer right around the corner (Yes, the year is going that quickly already!) everyone is ready to head outdoors and enjoy all the summertime activities available for us and our animal companions. But, before you grab your pack for that weekend hike, make sure you’re aware of heatstroke for both you and your furry companion.  Knowing how to prevent, detect, and treat heatstroke will help ensure you and your pets have a fun, and safe time this summer!

What can you do to prevent heatstroke?
Most of the time, we often associate heatstroke with high temperatures.  This is mostly true, but heatstroke can also occur when there are high levels of humidity, despite the temperature. This makes heatstroke a significant danger in hot, humid, and unventilated areas indoors. A few ways you can avoid heatstroke:

  • Never leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle. A parked car can become deadly in minutes, even with the windows open, and your pet could quickly succumb to heatstroke if left inside.
  • Take your daily walk or run with your dog in the early morning or evening, when temperatures are less extreme. Take a minute to touch the sidewalk with the palm of your hand.  Remember, if it feels too hot for you, it’s also too hot for the pads of your pet’s paws.
  • Even if your pet loves the outdoors and spends the majority of his time basking in the nature of your backyard, it’s best to provide him with an air-conditioned retreat if possible.
  • While outside, be sure your pet has access to shade and shelter away from direct sunlight.
  • Fresh water should always be available for your pet.  Also, make sure to use a sturdy bowl, especially if you’ll be away from home for a while. A water bowl that has tipped over is of no use to your thirsty pet.

Detection
So if you’re out and about, keep an eye on your furry friend.  It’s important to watch for some of the signs below to ensure your pet isn’t overheating.  Some of these signs are:

  • Excessive panting and drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Mild weakness
  • Stupor or actually collapsing
  • Seizures
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Also, did you know short-nosed animals such as Persian cats, pugs, boxers, and bulldogs are more susceptible to heat stroke than their longer-nosed counterparts. The reason is the shape of their faces make them a bit less effective at panting. Also to remember, pets who are overweight, elderly, or have heart or lung diseases should be kept in air-conditioned rooms or in front of fans as much as possible.  Much like us, if our pets have any adverse health conditions, it’s critical we take special care to ensure we’re providing the best care we can to our best friends.

You see signs of heatstroke, what now?
As soon as you see signs of heatstroke in your pet, it’s critical to help them cool down in a safe way.  Use towels and lukewarm water to wrap your pet and help them shed the heat.  Although it may seem counterintuitive, don’t use cool or cold water because you don’t want them to cool down too rapidly as it can be too stressful on your pet’s body. If you have one available, place your pet in front of a fan to help reduce their body temperature and help them relax.

When Fido is starting to cool down, call your veterinarian to explain the situation and seek expert guidance.  In some cases, pets affected by heatstroke will require intravenous fluids, blood pressure support, or other medications depending on the severity of the situation, and your veterinarian can help advise you on the best options for you and your pet.

For those living in harsh winter climates, the summer can feel like being released from a long, cold, and dark tunnel. Despite how wonderful hot and humid weather may feel to you, remember to check on your pet regularly. If something seems amiss, intervene early.