Every summer at Natalie Eves’ veterinary practice, she sees dogs that are suffering from a preventable, but potentially life-threatening condition—heatstroke.
“When we have a hot summer, the risk of overheating and dehydration is extremely high,” says Eves, owner of Cottage Country Animal Clinic in Parry Sound. “Dogs do not sweat like we do. They rely on panting, airflow, and heat transfer to cooler surfaces to cool off.”
While some breeds—short-nosed dogs, working dogs, those with dark coats—are more susceptible to the effects of heat and humidity, any furry friend (including cats) can suffer from dehydration or heat exhaustion.
Here’s how to make sure your pet stays cool—and out of the ER—during the final dog days of summer.
Provide access to plenty of cool, fresh water
This is the cardinal rule of avoiding dehydration. Have water bowls available throughout the cottage, including down on the dock. If you go out for a walk or a boat ride, be sure to bring a collapsible bowl with you.
Walk during the early morning or late evening hours
It will be cooler at this time of day, but try to keep your pup in the shade and consider the type of surface that you’re walking on; hot sand or asphalt can burn paws. If midday exercise is a must, consider taking them for a swim in the lake instead.
Provide your pooch with plenty of shade
Set up an umbrella down by the dock or beach, and during the peak daylight hours, consider putting your pet inside the cottage, where they may have access to air-conditioning or a fan.
Take a rest from play
Sometimes, heat exhaustion is simply the result of pets and their owners having a little too much fun. “Sometimes we see cases where active dogs refuse to rest and chase either a ball or stick until they collapse,” says Eves. “Dogs cannot judge their own exposure time and exertion level; they will literally play until it’s too late.” Just like kids, you may even have to put your dog down for a nap.
Don’t leave your pet in your vehicle
Even if you think it’s just going to be for a few minutes, leaving your pet in a car can have devastating consequence, as temperatures will rise dramatically within a matter of minutes. “Leaving windows down does very little to prevent these extreme temperatures,” adds Eves.
Know the warning signs of heatstroke
“Recognizing the subtle signs is essential to preventing a severe and possible life-threatening issue,” says Eves. Keep an eye out for panting and drooling, which will quickly progress to dull mentation, weakness, incoordination, vomiting, and bloody diarrhoea.
If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, act immediately
Move them to a cool and shady spot and offer them fresh cool water. If you have a thermometer available, you can take their temperature—most often, rectal temperatures in heatstroke patients will be greater than 40 degrees Celsius. Reducing their body temperature isn’t enough—any pets suffering from heatstroke should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible.