by Melissa Gisleson, DVM
As the summer nears and the weather continues to warm up, it is important to be mindful of the impact it can have on our pets. Dogs, especially, are spending a lot more time outdoors and traveling with their owners which can be a lot of fun, but can be potentially dangerous if we (their owners) are not prepared for the heat. Humans can better regulate core temperatures quickly through perspiration (sweating). Dogs and cats however, have very limited sweat glands and are unable to quickly account for extreme changes in their core temperatures. Heatstroke is a very scary, life-threatening emergency that can often be prevented.
There are two main types of heatstroke, exertional and non-exertional, however they are often combined. Exertional often meaning exercise or activity induced and non-exertional meaning simply being in a warm environment without the proper air flow and acclimation.
That means that taking four-legged companion for their first big hike or adventure of the year when it’s a little warmer outside could lead to heatstroke if they go too far for too long. Just last year, after taking one of our dogs on an hour long walk on a breezy 80 degree day in June, I was curious and took his temperature. It was 105 degrees! (Normal is 100-102.5) Needless to say, I’ve been a bit cautious ever since! Remember, if they’ve been cooped up for the winter and spring, they need to adjust to the heat and exercise too!
Leaving your dog in the car while you run errands or grab a quick bite to eat is simply not an option in the warmer months. If you have places to stop, it is safer to just leave them at home. It has been shown that even parking in the shade and cracking the windows is still not enough to keep the temperature down to a safe level, even for just 20 minutes! Dogs left in hot cars are also often panting, anxious, and excited, further causing an increase in their core temperatures.
If you’re concerned about the possibility of heatstroke with your pet, please call the clinic or the emergency center right away as it can cause major nervous and cardiac system problems. All too often, heatstroke is life-threatening or fatal. In the meantime, enjoy the summer with your critters, but always be sure to bring plenty of water for your fur babies. Call us at 963-2371 if you have any concerns about your pet and the heat.