Pet Talk: Heat exhaustion: Keep your pets cool

From College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University

As we welcome the joys of summer, we have to greet the heat. As temperatures increase, it is vital to take the necessary precautions to protect pets from heat exhaustion.

Although there is not a set temperature that is considered too hot for animals, temperatures in the high 80s and above can pose problems for pets, said Dr. Stacy Eckman, lecturer at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. She added that, generally, if it is too hot for the pet owner to be outside, it is too hot for the pet.

Every pet is different on the temperature they can endure. Cats, for example, are usually more tolerant of the heat than dogs, and can often find a shady place to lounge.

It is very dependent on the pet itself,” Eckman added. “For example, overweight and brachycephalic dogs (short-nosed dogs like bulldogs) are at a greater risk for heat stroke/exhaustion for even short periods of time in warm weather.”

Other dogs that have a higher chance of heat exhaustion are those genetically sensitive to the heat and those not acclimated to the heat, such as indoor dogs. Both dogs with long, thick coats and those with short, thin coats can become overheated, so it is important to take precautions for all types of dogs.

Even dogs who exercise vigorously often can become overheated.

The perfect example of this is a dog who goes to the dog park on a nice, warm, spring day when they have not [been] all winter, and they play Frisbee and run more than normal,” said Eckman. This can be a common case of heat exhaustion.

Eckman said the first symptoms of heat exhaustion are lethargy and listlessness.

They pant to try to cool themselves and can be anxious as they try to find a cool place,” she said.

If pets are outside for too long and become overheated, they can develop diarrhea and vomiting, which could lead to shock.

If a pet has these symptoms, Eckman recommends taking them to a veterinarian immediately for diagnosis and treatment. Do not put cold water or ice packs on the animal because it makes it harder for them to cool off.

To prevent heat exhaustion, Eckman suggested providing shade and fans. She also emphasized the importance of having enough water for pets.

Dogs cool themselves by panting, and this can dehydrate them, so they will need more water than you may think,” said Eckman. “Take breaks during exercise or play to make sure they cool down and off.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

From the June 13-19, 2012, issue

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