With a deadly heat wave scorching much of the United States this week, experts at BluePearl Veterinary Partners say it’s important to remember pets face just as much danger from heat as people do.
“If it’s hot to you it’s just as hot to your dogs and probably even worse,” said Dr. John Gicking, who is board-certified in veterinary emergency and critical care. “We’re better equipped to handle the heat than dogs because we perspire.”
Unlike humans, whose bodies cool as they sweat, dogs cool off mostly by panting. But panting is much less effective on humid days and in the sweltering heat that has blistered the Midwest, and is now moving to the Northeast.
And it’s not just dogs who suffer. Gicking said people with outdoor cats should be absolutely sure these pets have plenty of shade and water, especially in the midst of this heat wave that has been blamed for killing six people.
To keep your pets from suffering from heat exhaustion, consider these tips:
- Find the coolest option for walking your dog this week. Pick a shady route instead of a sunny one. Bring water. Avoid the hottest parts of the day, roughly 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Rip up your calendar. If you were planning to go to the dog beach one day this week, or go hiking with your four-legged companion, change plans. This is not the time for your dog to spend hours in the heat.
- Gicking says to remember that certain dogs suffer even more from heat. Especially at risk are overweight dogs, dogs with short snouts such as bulldogs and older dogs who have a condition called laryngeal paralysis. Laryngeal paralysis is a condition that affects the muscles of the larynx, making breathing more difficult.
- Avoid blacktop and even concrete when walking your dog. Basic rule: Put the back of your hand on the pavement. If you can’t hold it there for 5-10 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
- Keep your dog on a leash. If Fido runs away from you on a cool fall day, that’s one thing. But a couple hours of romping in this heat could lead to a very bad end.
Dogs may be overheating if they won’t get up, are not alert or can’t stop panting. If you suspect overheating, hose your dog off with water but never ice water, which actually makes the situation worse. The most important thing to do is get the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Most BluePearl hospitals are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and all are staffed with highly trained veterinarians who are well-equipped to treat animals in emergencies.
So how hot is too hot for pets? There is no one answer. But consult this chart from the National Weather Service. If it’s dangerous for humans, you can bet on it being too hot for your pets as well.