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The Vet Says…Summer poses serious risks for our furry friends


Advertiser Priceless Pet Clinic has some summer-related advice for all pet owners:

What a great Spring we’ve had! I can’t recall the last time we’ve had so many beautiful sunny days this early in the year. We always tell our family visiting from out of state during the Summer that the weather doesn’t heat up until after the 4th of July, so bring a jacket!

With the warm weather on the way, people will be spending a lot more time outside with their dogs. Every year we see pets present with heat exhaustion and heat stroke, especially at the start of the warm weather. Usually, pets have not had time to acclimate to the warmer weather and are more prone during the start of the Summer.

Dogs and cats are especially vulnerable to heat stroke because their furry bodies cannot sweat to dissipate heat, like humans. Rather they pant or breathe rapidly to cool themselves. When they are unable to effectively cool themselves, their core temperature rises rapidly.

Heatstroke occurs when normal body mechanisms cannot keep the body’s temperature in a safe range (100.0-102.5 F). A dog with moderate heatstroke (body temperature from 104º to 106ºF) can recover within an hour if given prompt first aid and veterinary care (normal body temperature is 100-102.5°F). Severe heatstroke (body temperature over 106ºF) can be deadly and immediate veterinary assistance is needed.

There may be both breed predilections and diseases that may make some pets more susceptible to heat stroke. For instance, breeds with short faces (Brachcephalic airway syndrome) like bull dogs, shitzus, pugs, Boston terriers have airway disorders making effective heat dissipation difficult. Some breeds have issues with a condition called collapsing trachea, which again compromises air flow. Breeds such as Pomeranians, Yorkies and toy poodles are more prone to this disorder. Another disease called laryngeal paralysis also affect heat exchange through breathing. In this condition, a dog’s vocal cords are paralyzed and to not open or close appropriately, leading to overheating. This is often seen in older, large breed dogs like Laboradors, Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers.

Still other dogs may have preexisting diseases such has heart disease, diabetes, or kidney dysfunction that may predispose them to heat stroke.

A dog suffering from heatstroke will display several signs:

  • Rapid panting
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting – sometimes with blood
  • Diarrhea
  • Shock
  • Coma

What you should do
Remove the dog from the hot area immediately. Prior to taking him to your veterinarian, lower his temperature by wetting him thoroughly with cool water (for very small dogs, use lukewarm water), then increase air movement around him with a fan. CAUTION: Using very cold water can actually be counterproductive. Cooling too quickly and especially allowing his body temperature to become too low can cause other life-threatening medical conditions. The rectal temperature should be checked every 5 minutes. Once the body temperature is 103ºF, the cooling measures should be stopped and the dog should be dried thoroughly and covered so he does not continue to lose heat. Even if the dog appears to be recovering, take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. He should still be examined since he may be dehydrated or have other complications.

Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful.

  • Provide access to water at all times.
  • Do not leave your pet in a hot parked car even if you’re in the shade or will only be gone a short time. The temperature inside a parked car can quickly reach up to140 degrees.
  • Make sure outside dogs have access to shade.
  • On a hot day, restrict exercise and don’t take your dog jogging with you. Too much exercise when the weather is very hot can be dangerous.
  • Do not muzzle your dog.
  • Avoid places like the beach and especially concrete or asphalt areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
  • Wetting down your dog with cool water or allowing him to swim can help maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Move your dog to a cool area of the house. Air conditioning is one of the best ways to keep a dog cool, but is not always dependable. To provide a cooler environment, freeze water in soda bottles, or place ice and a small amount of water in several resealable food storage bags, and then wrap them in a towel or tube sock. Place them on the floor for the dog to lie on.

It is recommended to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian in the Spring and early Summer to determine if there are potential health risks to be aware of before a problem arises.

Patrick Miles, DVM
Lee Miles, DVM
Jenny Brown DVM

Priceless Pet Clinic



Normandy Park Towne Center
19893 1st Ave South, Suite #202
Normandy Park, WA 98149

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