This summer we have seen hotter than usual temperatures in many parts of North America, and the weatherman predicts that it will continue through the remainder of the summer. These soaring temperatures can lead to dangerous and life-threatening situations for the family dog or other pets, especially if the humidity in the air combines with a high temperature to increase the “Temperature-Humidity Index” or “Humidex Reading”. In humid air, perspiration does not evaporate as readily, making it difficult for people and animals to cool down efficiently. It does not take extremely high outdoor temperatures to produce heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion or heat cramps.

Heat stroke is a condition arising from extremely high body temperature (rectal temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius), which leads to nervous system abnormalities that may include lethargy, weakness, collapse or coma. The greatest risk for heat stroke in animals is similar to the risk in humans, and includes puppies and kittens, geriatric pets, pets who are overweight, pets who are excessively active (playing or working) in the heat of the day, breeds of dogs or cats with flattened faces (Persians, bulldogs, etc), dogs with heavy coats and pets who are ill or are on certain medications.

Leaving a pet in a car with closed windows on a hot summer day is probably the most common cause of heat stroke. However, taking your dog for a long walk in the heat of the day, or allowing dogs to romp and play with their canine buddies at the leash free park during extreme temperatures can also lead to heat related problems. In these circumstances, it may only take a few minutes for your pet’s body temperature to rise into the critical range.

There are a few simple things you can do to minimize the risk of heat related injury to your pet. They include: have long-haired dogs professionally groomed in the early summer so that they have less of an insulating haircoat; avoid taking your dog outdoors during the heat of midday; if you have the space, keep a small ‘doggy pool’ outside where your pet can cool off (make sure you empty the pool when not in use, and keep small children away); limit exercise time and take walks in the early morning or late evening; and finally, NEVER leave your dog in the car – the inside temperature of a car can reach 120 F or 48 C in minutes.

And don’t forget, pets can become sunburned too! This is particularly problematic in white or light-coated animals, and the most sensitive areas are the nose, eyelids and ears.

If your pet does appear to be suffering from heat related illness, you need to seek veterinary attention immediately. On the way to the veterinary clinic, use wet towels and turn on the air conditioning or fans in your car; if your pet is conscious, provide ice chips for him to chew on.


Caution: These news items, written by Lifelearn Inc., are licensed to this practice for the personal use of our clients. Any copying, printing or further distribution is prohibited without the express written permission of Lifelearn Inc. Please note that the news information presented here is NOT a substitute for a proper consultation and/or clinical examination of your pet by our clinic veterinarian.