National Heat Awareness Day is recognized every year on the last Friday of May and was initially added to the calendar to encourage employers to be aware of heat-related dangers in the workplace, especially for manual labor and outdoor-focused careers. Falling on May 27 this year, National Heat Awareness Day also reminds pet owners of the risks of hot summer days for their furry family members. We’re offering hot weather safety tips to ensure your pets remain healthy through the “dog days” of summer in honor of this important day.
The Risk Factors
Pets love nothing more than being outside, especially in the warm summer months when they can enjoy longer walks and hikes and maybe even venture into the mountains with their family for a camping adventure. All pet owners must be aware that warmer months mean their pets have different needs, and if overheating occurs, they risk a serious medical complication.
Overheating in pets can lead to:
- Brain damage
As the American Kennel Club details, heatstroke is a severe but avoidable condition. It can be life-threatening if left unnoticed and untreated for too long, with certain dog breeds more susceptible to it, such as long-haired and brachycephalic dogs.
Signs of Overheating
Overheating is especially prevalent in dogs since they spend the most time outdoors and exert more energy than outdoor cats. Overheating is when a pet’s temperature rises, and blood rushes to the tongue, gums, and membranes to help alleviate the excess heat. Overheating happens quickly, with pets unable to cool themselves to the point of a metabolic meltdown occurring.
Signs of overheating in pets include:
- Excessive panting
- Labored breathing
- Extreme salivation
- Bright red membranes
- Purple/gray mouth
- Gasping for air
- Thickened saliva
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Increased heart rate
When venturing outside for a prolonged period with your pet, ensure you have a quick exit strategy if your pet exhibits any signs of overheating. Even if you notice the signs of overheating immediately and get your pet into a cooler environment, take them to the veterinarian since their organs may already be compromised.
There are many ways to avoid overheating, from investing in cooling products to being extra cautious with senior pets.
Overheating in pets can be avoided in the following ways:
- Provide your pet with fresh water and shade when outside for any length of time Invest in innovative cooling products designed especially for pets, such as cooling mats and vests.
- Avoid leaving your pet in the car, regardless of access to fresh air with windows cracked.
- Slowly acclimate your pets to hot weather by bringing them outside in short increments, working your way up to more extended periods outside.
- Avoid too much exercise or playing outside during hot months.
- Groom your dog more frequently and consider shorter hair in the summer months, as a dog’s coat serves as insulation and makes them more vulnerable to overheating.
- Make sure your home is air-conditioned, or fans are set up for pets if you work outside the home.
- Be especially vigilant with senior pets, pets with respiratory issues, and brachycephalic (flat-faced) dogs since their shortened muzzles mean their airways are less efficient.
- Keep your pets off of asphalt surfaces, as they radiate heat and will make your pet’s temperature rise even more rapidly.
The AVMA offers additional ways to keep your pet safe during the hot summer days, and the American Kennel Club provides tips for keeping your home cool if you don’t have air conditioning.
Regardless of the precautions taken to avoid overheating, always keep a watchful eye on your pet when it’s hot outside and be aware of the warning signs so you can take immediate action. Overheating in pets happens very quickly, and every moment counts once symptoms are present. Contact us if you would like to learn more about the dangers of heat when it comes to your precious pets.