The heat is turning up, which means more adventures outdoors! As exciting as it is, it also can be a dangerous time for our furry friends. Every year, hundreds of animals die from overheating and heat stroke and more become ill. We asked PetSmart Canada vet expert Dr. Adelman for advice to help keep pets cool and safe this summer—specifically, tips on heat safety and preventing dehydration. —Noa Nichol
Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
My name is Dr. Lauren Adelman. I am a veterinarian and internal medicine specialist. I live in Vancouver, where I practice at Canada West Vet Specialists.
As we head into the thick of summer, let’s talk heat safety for pets. Why are hot conditions dangerous for pets, and how hot does it need to be, to be dangerous for our pets?
Pets don’t have very effective cooling systems—they can’t sweat like humans and can therefore heat up very quickly. Panting is the main way that pets cool off. There is no real answer to what temperature is too hot as it depends on the individual pet and their activity level. Many pets don’t know how to restrict themselves, so even a little bit of exercise during a warm day could lead to overheating. Some breeds of dogs and cats, particularly brachycephalic breeds (those with squishy faces), are more prone to heat stroke as they do not pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, overweight and those with heart or lung disease, are at increased risk.
What are the symptoms of overheating in pets?
Signs of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, dull mentation or listlessness or even collapse. In extreme cases seizures, bloody diarrhea, vomiting can also occur.
Most of us have heard the warnings about leaving an animal alone in a parked vehicle with no ventilation: what are the dangers?
You should NEVER leave an animal alone in a parked vehicle. Cars act like incubators with the temperature rapidly increasing to levels far higher than outside. In only a few minutes your pet can start showing signs of heat stroke.
In terms of hydration, how do we keep our pets well hydrated? Top tips from a vet?
Hydration is a key part of protecting your pet from overheating. Make sure your pet always has access to fresh water—bowls often need to be filled more frequently during the summer months. If you are taking your dog on a walk, pack a water bottle for them to make sure they stay hydrated. Products like the Arcadia Trail 2-in-1 Travel Water Bottle are easy to carry and easy for your pet to drink from. Additionally, freezing toys in a block of ice or giving your pet treats like ice cubes can help keep your pet hydrated while outdoors.
A gut instinct may be to give our dog a short summer cut; why is this counter-intuitive?
A dog’s coat can be trimmed during the summer months, but you should never fully shave your dog. Their coats actually protect them from overheating and sunburning. Extra precautions can be taken with sun protection apparel like the Top Paw Fun in the Sun sun-protection line. Brushing cats more often can help them tolerate the heat better. If you have a pet with white fur, be sure to use a pet-friendly sunscreen product to protect them against the sun as they can suffer burns and may be predisposed to skin cancer.
Our pets love to be outside: tips for summer outdoor safety?
Take dogs on walks in the morning or evening when the temperature is lower and reduce outdoor activity during the hottest times of the day. Pavement can get very hot and burn your dog’s paw pads. Test the pavement with your hand or wrist first—if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog! When walking in the evening, be sure to take extra safety measures by putting your dog in reflective gear like the Arcadia Trail Neoprene Dog Harness. When outside, be sure that your pet has a shady place to get out of the sun and be sure to not over exercise them (they often won’t regulate themselves). When adventuring to places like the beach that may not have a shady area, be sure to bring materials that can provide. The Arcadia Trail Outdoor Double Dog Shade Tent is a great example. It is best to keep your pets inside when it is extremely hot. If you don’t have air conditioning, provide a fan, draw the curtains and give your animals access to a cool room (bare floors are ideal). A variety of cooling products can also be found at your local PetSmart.
What will you be doing with your pets this summer?
My dogs enjoy going to the park and spending time at the beach. On very hot days, I keep them indoors. Otherwise, we go in the mornings or evenings and bring lots of water!