Penn Vet's Best Tips to Keep Your Pet Cool
Ryan Hospital Emergency Services veterinarians weigh in on how to keep dogs and cats healthy in hot weather
August is called the dog days of summer for a reason. It’s usually this summer month that is the hottest, stickiest and potentially dangerous for dogs and for cats.
“We see several cases of heat exhaustion or heatstroke every summer in Emergency Services,” said Kenneth J. Drobatz, DVM, director of Emergency Services at Penn Vet’s Ryan Hospital. “In most cases, a trip to the emergency room with your dog or cat can be avoided if an owner takes a couple of tips to heart.”
Here, we’ve listed tips to ensure you and your pet get through the last full month of summer without needing immediate veterinary care in response to one of the hottest seasons in recent memory.
1. Provide your pet with plenty of fresh, clean water 24 hours a day.
2. Keep the air conditioning on when you're not home.
3. Walk your dog first thing in the morning when the sun hasn’t yet fully risen to take advantage of cooler temperatures.
4. Get your dog or cat groomed. In summer months dogs and cats can shed tremendously. Getting that undercoat brushed out regularly can significantly cool your pet. For dogs with especially long, thick hair, shaving may help to keep them cooler.
5. If you have cats, use a heavy screen on windows or keep them closed. During the summer, the number of cats suffering from “high rise” syndrome, or falling from windows, increases dramatically.
6. If you have a fenced-in area for your dog, be sure he has a shady place to lay and provide plenty of drinking water that’s easily accessible.
7. On especially hot days, skip exercising your pet outdoors altogether. Bring playtime inside with hide-and-seek with your dog or with a laser pointer with your cat.
Know what to look for
There are some telltale signs that your pet needs immediate veterinary intervention. Remember, heatstroke is a life-threatening condition for both dogs and cats.
Some signs to watch for include:
• Heavy, loud breathing
• Staggering gait
• Bright red tongue or gum tissue
• Vomiting/diarrhea +/- blood after being in the heat
If heat stroke is suspected, after you get the animal to a cool place, wet him/her down so that his hair is soaked and transport him to your veterinarian as quickly as possible.
“Owners don’t have very long to respond,” said Dr. Drobatz. “The pet needs to be cooled quickly and see a vet ASAP.”
If veterinary intervention is put off too long, a series of organ shutdowns can occur, including kidney failure, neurologic injury, sepsis and more.
“It affects literally every organ in the body,” said Dr. Drobatz, leading to death.