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Keeping your pets cool in the heat

Midsummer has come and gone. Chicagoans are headed into the humid, unrelenting heat of August. Though we’ve entered the Dog Days of Summer with some very high temperatures this year, more hot days are on the horizon. While we revel in days spent outdoors, trips to the beach, sunbathing by the pool and the overall relaxation that comes with sunshine, it’s important to keep our pets in mind. It is easy to understand our own limitations but our pets, especially dog friends, do not have the same sense of awareness we do. That’s why we’re reviewing heat exposure and heat stroke. We want you and your companions to enjoy the Summer without compromising their health.

Heat exposure and stroke are serious afflictions that effect dogs as well as cats. More commonly seen in canines, heat stroke progresses quickly and presents as several different respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms. The life-threatening condition is characterized by an extreme elevation in core body temperature. It can occur from exposure to high temperature environments as well as prolonged physical exertion in hot or humid weather. The more common symptoms of heat stroke are sudden-onset exhaustion or collapsing, excessive panting and drooling, vomiting, reddened gums, elevated heart rate and disorientation.

Along with heat exposure another common cause of heat stroke is dehydration from insufficient water access. Whenever you take your dog to the park or beach it’s important to bring a separate water source for them! Make sure you’re prompting your pet to take regular water breaks between play. If you have access to a large body of water such as a lake or pool you can encourage your dog to take a dip as well! A great way to enjoy the summer and keep cool is to go swimming. Of course – not all pets are as aquatically adept as others. Keep in mind your dog’s swimming abilities before any water play. Always use an appropriate flotation device in deep waters.

Some dogs are predisposed to heat stroke and other related conditions. These include breeds of dogs that are brachycephalic. Brachycephalic dogs are short-nosed and flat-faced. These breeds include all varieties of Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers. Their anatomy compromises their ability to breathe efficiently in hot weather. Other breeds that are at a higher risk are our fluffy friends! Those dogs that have thick outer coats such as Huskies and German Shepherds. As always, be aware of your pet’s personal health history. Dogs with underlying heart or respiratory conditions have a higher risk of heat stroke during the summer. If your pet has a medical condition, or is elderly, take extra precautions when heading outside to enjoy the weather. Make sure you implement lots of breaks in between moderate play.

If you’ve played too hard and you’re concerned your pet may be experiencing heat exhaustion do not panic. Here are some things to keep in mind. If your dog is unresponsive take them to the nearest emergency hospital immediately. Heat stroke is considered an emergency and can be life-threatening. It requires immediate medical attention. If you’re questioning whether the symptoms you’re noticing are secondary to heat exposure give us a call. We will help triage your pet over the phone and give you our best medical advice. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help your dog or cat. Saturate some towels in lukewarm water and gently wrap your pet in them. Focus on key areas like the abdomen. Never soak the towels in cold water or place your pet into cold water. The extreme temperature difference can send your pet into shock. Take smaller towels and wrap their feet/paw pads. These are only temporary measures to prevent further complications from heat exposure. When your pet is experiencing a heat stroke they will need medical attention as soon as possible.

With all the great outdoor options for Chicago dogs there’s no reason to stay cooped up inside! Common sense practices such as water breaks and time in the shade can make the difference between a memorable afternoon at the park or a day spent at the vets. Feel free to call My Vet and speak to one of our staff members about heat exposure and prevention!

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