Keeping pets healthy in the heat

Posted June 24, 2010 1:37 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2010 1:45 p.m. EDT

The Veterinary Teaching Hospital at North Carolina State University offers these tips to help keep your pets healthy in the hot summertime.

General heat safety tips

  • Limit your pet's exercise on hot and humid days to early morning and evening.
  • When exercising your pet, remember that asphalt becomes very hot, which can burn tender foot pads. Keep fresh water handy, and ensure that cooling shade is always nearby.
  • Never leave a pet in a parked car. Even with the windows rolled down, it only takes a few minutes for a dangerous level of heat to build within the interior of a car. Dehydration, heat stroke and even brain damage to the dog or cat can occur.
  • While all dogs and cats are at risk, older or very young pets, overweight pets, pets with heavy coats, and short-nosed dogs might need extra care.

Symptoms & first aid for heat-related disorders

  • excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • increased heart and respiratory rate
  • drooling
  • difficulty walking
  • appears weak or in a stupor

FIRST AID: Place the pet in the shade or air conditioning immediately, and apply cool – not cold – water to reduce the animal’s core body temperature. Get help from your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Summertime pet tips

  • Keep your pet up-to-date on heartworm medication, as well as flea and tick prevention. This summer in particular, cat owners are advised to protect their feline companions from tick-transmitted cytauxzoonosis, a malaria-like infectious disease that when left untreated has a mortality rate close to 100 percent.
  • Beware of toxic agents such as plant food, insecticides, fertilizer, coolants, citronella candles, oil products and insect coils that may be around the home and yard.
  • Prevent access to compost bins or garbage cans. Ingesting the fungus on decomposing objects can cause a potentially lethal condition known as tremorgenic mycotoxin intoxication. Symptoms of this condition are uncontrolled and non-stop shaking.
  • The heat, loud noise and confusion of crowded summer events can be stressful for pets. Unlit fireworks might contain heavy metals such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates and arsenic, which are toxic if ingested.
  • Make sure your pet is always wearing a collar or identification, such as a microchip.