July Heat is a Genuine Concern For Our Pets. BEWARE!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

It has been an unusual spring, indeed. Fortunately, we have had a good deal of rain as of late. But the summer heat is upon us as well. Pet owners must be sensitive to this issue.

Heat exhaustion is a terribly dangerous and insidious condition that can impact our pets, particularly heavy coated dog breeds. A dog left in the car with windows cracked but outside ambient temperatures of just over 70 degrees Fahrenheit can cause heat stroke in less than ten minutes. Another concern is that people love to jog with their pets. I always emphasize to folks that in fact, most dog breeds are built to be sprinters, rather than distance runners. Every year I hear stories about dogs that were jogging or simply walking at a reasonable clip around park sites like Creve Coeur Lake, and quite abruptly, the pet starts to weaken; may begin to breath heavily/panting; may hyper-salivate, shiver and collapse into a stupor, or worse, may faint away dead. Body temperatures usually register over 106 and higher. But, note, that logical and reasonable pet management can help to prevent such calamities.

Dr. Doug’s Rules of Summer Care might include—

  • Walking pets should occur early, early morning, or after sunset,
  • Take a water source along with you, or be sure there are resources nearby,
  • Do NOT race dogs during the hot summer season,
  • Take a pocket, digital thermometer with you and check your dog if you note any behavioral changes or signs as mentioned herein,
  • Carry your veterinarian’s phone number and the phone number of the veterinary emergency facility near to where you walk,
  • You might consider carrying a bottle of rubbing alcohol if you think you will be out and away from a reasonable source of water &/or ice.

Age, breed and coat condition, or any other medical condition afflicting your pet should be taken into consideration when exercising your pets. Discuss preventative steps your veterinarian may want to include with my own suggestions above.

Should you note signs of concern, and you verify an elevated temperature, even above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, then immediately find shade and a source of water &/or ice, and begin to soak down your pet. Call your vet or emergency facility, and rush along to be sure your pet is not suffering a true heat stroke condition. Often elevated body temperatures begin to damage body tissues with kidneys suffering as a result.

Sunburn is also an issue, especially affecting the muzzle region or other less furred sites that might result from shaving our pets too closely. Be alert that your groomer does not shave down too closely.

Finally, remember that after any form of exercise, be careful NOT to allow your dog to engulf a ton of water, as large to giant breeds are susceptible to a condition called ‘bloat’, whereby the stomach swells with food, gas and/or water and can turn on its own axis, encouraging more gas filling and shutting down of needed blood supply to the stomach and spleen. These dogs become toxic very quickly, and again, can pass within hours.

Please have a safe and enjoyable summer season, sharing with your pets quality time and activity with special regard to our concern for heat exhaustion.

Be Well,
Dr. Doug Pernikoff
Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic
Vet Pet Rescue