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Protect your pet in hot weather

Protect your pets in heat| UPMC Health Plan

Exercise is just as important for our pets as it is for us. And when the summer months hit, so is staying safe in the heat! That’s a real concern for animal lovers. Here’s what you need to know about protecting your pets in heat.

First, know what is normal for your pet. You can ask your veterinarian how to take vital signs for your pet. You should know a typical resting and exercise heart rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. Knowing your pet’s baseline will help you determine if your pet is in distress.

Remember, pets are not able to regulate their body temperature as well as humans — and they do not regulate body temperature in the same way. While a fan may cool you off, it isn’t much help to your pet. Animals pant as one way to control their body temperature. When the weather is hot and humid, panting doesn’t help as much. That’s because the excess moisture is unable to evaporate. Pets also expel heat through their paws. When temperatures are high, this also becomes difficult.

Some pets are more sensitive to heat and humidity than others. Pets with thick fur and/or short snouts typically have more difficulty in the heat. Keep that in mind when considering outdoor activities with your furry companion.

When pets overheat they are at risk for a heat stroke, which can be life-threatening. According to the American Red Cross, “Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include: collapse, body temperature 104° F or above, bloody diarrhea or vomit, depression stupor, seizures or coma, excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, salivation.”

There are a few things you can do to prevent a heat stroke:

  1. NEVER — I repeat, NEVER — leave your pet in the car, even with the air conditioning on. A summer temperature of 80° F can skyrocket to well over 100° F in a matter of minutes! Even with the windows cracked. This is sure to lead to a heat stroke and possibly death in a very short amount of time.
  2. Avoid exercising with your pet during peak heat hours. Exercising early in the morning or later in the evening can help with this. Take frequent breaks and exercise in short bouts rather than long ones.
  3. Avoid hot surfaces including concrete, blacktop, and even sand. If you cannot tolerate these surfaces in your bare feet, neither can your pet. Pets can easily burn their paws, and the heat of the surface prevents them from expelling excess heat. Walk your pet in grassy areas as much as possible. Though pet shoes sound like a good option to prevent burning, they prevent the pet from releasing heat through their paws.
  4. Prevent a sun burn. This is particularly important for pets with pink noses and skin as well as thin or white hair. Talk to your vet about a pet friendly sunblock and use as directed.
  5. Always have shade and cool water available for your pet. You can find cooling mats or wraps, as well as pet-safe popsicle recipes, to keep your pet cool.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, call your vet immediately. It’s important to get your pet to a cool place, cover your in wet cool towels and get to the nearest vet as soon as possible. Program your vet’s number into your phone, as well as the number for the nearest emergency veterinary hospital in case your vet is closed. When going on vacation with your pet, do your research to find emergency veterinary hospitals in the area ahead of time and have a plan in case of a pet emergency.

Your pet is a wonderful companion and motivator — and can even be a great supporter of your healthy lifestyle. Be sure to protect your companion animal’s health and safety as much as your own!