Well, summer has already begun here in Texas! We are already in the 90s and expected to rise even higher toward the end of June. This time of year we begin to see patients that present for possible heat stress or overheating. This can happen very quickly, and if not treated immediately, can result in long term damage to the liver and kidneys, and in some unfortunate cases, even death.
So, how hot is too hot? There is no magic number, but any pet can become overheated if not provided the proper environment during the heat.
Species and breed make a difference.
Certain breeds of dogs can only take temperatures as high as 80 degrees Fahrenheit before they are prone to heat illness. Most of these breeds have a short face/nose and are referred to as brachycephalic. These breeds include English and French bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, Pekingese, and Shi tzu. These dogs have a difficult time breathing to begin with, and when hot, they breath faster and harder to dissipate heat, and it is a downhill spiral from there. These are the breeds that should be inside during warm weather and only let outside with human supervision. And, the more humid it is, the easier they can succumb to heat stress.
Other breeds of dogs are less prone to heat stress and can be outside, even in hot weather if:
• They are normally outdoors
• They have plenty of shade
• They have access to endless amounts of water
• They have access to a shallow pool they can wade in or an elevated cot/plaRorm
to get off the ground and receive circulated air around their body.
• They are not tethered by a chain or rope.
• Fans or fans with misters are used to circulate air in smaller back yards with
minimal air flow.
• They are observed by a human several times daily for signs of overheating.
Cats are smart critters and usually find the coolest area possible, and don’t typically over-do it on hot days. Cats become overheated if inadvertently left in a building (such as a shop or shed) with no air conditioning, or left in a hot vehicle where they cannot get out. Otherwise, make sure they have plenty of water and shade trees to hide in and under.
How do I know if my pet is becoming too hot?
• They start panting heavily and continue to pant heavily with their mouth open and tongue out when laying down.
• They lay by the water bowl and won’t leave it.
• They collapse when they try to walk
• They are “wobbly” when they try to get up and walk
• The pads of their feet are warm or hot to the touch.
If you believe your pet is experiencing heat stress or is overheated, immediately place cool wash cloths on their feet as you are taking them to your veterinarian. Rubbing alcohol on the pads of the feet will help as well. If your pet is not evaluated by a veterinarian, as little as 8 hours can be too late.
When the body over heats, blood vessels try to shunt warm blood away from vital organs and into the extremities in order to protect vital organs from overheating and shutting down. Although a protective measure, this can ultimately lead to permanent damage or failure to these organs if supportive care such as IV fluids, constant blood value monitoring and specific medicati
on are not implemented as soon as possible.
Basically, use common sense with your pets. If you wouldn’t sit outside in the heat without shade or water, your pet doesn’t need to, either.