Buddy is an English bulldog who knows what to do to stay cool in the summer heat. Read our interview with Buddy, to learn key points that will help your pet stay safe in the sun.
Question: Why do pets experience heat differently?
Little Animal Hospital (LAH): “Why is the same temperature that is fine for people dangerous for dogs?”
Buddy’s answer: “You might think dogs and cats are naturally more resistant to the heat than people, but heat can be harder on us. People can stop when they feel too hot, but dogs will keep going—we don’t want to miss out on the fun. If pets are not acclimated, the heat will affect us more. Some of my fellow pets shed their hair for the summer, but still have thick hair coats, so consider a visit to the groomer, to remove dead fur and mats, before summer heat hits. Remember that dark colors, such as a black hair coat, absorb more heat.
Question: What pet supplies should we pack to beat the heat?
LAH: “Are there specific pet supplies that owners must pack when they plan to take their pet on their summer trip?”
Buddy: “My motto is to always be prepared to beat the summer heat. My summer pet safety checklist includes:
- Sunscreen without zinc — Short hair coats and nonpigmented skin leave pets vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. Apply baby sunscreen without zinc, or a pet safe sunblock. Pets with thin hair and hairless breeds may also need a UV protective pet sunsuit.
- Portable shade — Always seek out shade, especially on pavement. If you will be in a place without shade, such as the lake or beach, pack a tent or large umbrella to make your own shade.
- Harness instead of collar — A harness works better in the heat than a collar—the last thing your dog needs when panting in the heat is any restriction around their neck.
- Bowls and plenty of cold water — Always pack your pet’s bowl, and keep plenty of cool water on hand when traveling in the summer heat. Pack a cooler with cold packs and lots of bottled water.
- Pet first aid kit — Always pack a pet first aid kit that includes emergency veterinary clinic numbers, your pet’s medical records and vaccination history, and extra pet medication.”
Question: Can pets stay cool in the car?
LAH: “Pets should never be left in a parked car. Does leaving the windows cracked help?”
Buddy: “No! The air may be moving when the windows are down, but that air is still hot, and the sun is still heating up surfaces, especially dark colored metal or plastic in a vehicle. The temperature can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes in a parked car on a moderately warm day, so never, ever, leave pets in the car or truck. Ensure that your car’s air conditioning is in good condition before taking a trip with your pet in the heat. When getting pets in and out of the car, watch out for paws on hot pavement. Consider applying a protective paw wax, or using doggie boots. If you can’t safely take your pet with you, consider leaving them at home.”
Question: Do short-nosed pets have a greater heat risk?
LAH: “They say flat-faced pet breeds are at greater risk in the heat? Why?”
Buddy: “Dogs cool off by panting, since they can’t sweat like people. Brachycephalic breeds like me are at greater risk from the heat, since our anatomy means we have a harder time panting. Our flat faces mean less room in our mouths and throats. Also, because of our extra tissue and extra-long tongues, any irritation from excess panting can cause swelling, and restrict our breathing more. Breathing through our noses doesn’t help, because our nostrils are often unusually small. To top it off, we have extra-small windpipes. You can see why it’s especially important to keep brachycephalic breeds cool!”
Question: What is pet heatstroke?
LAH: “Last question for today! We hear lots of different terms—heat stress, heat exhaustion, heatstroke. What exactly is pet heatstroke?”
Buddy: “As an at-risk bulldog, I am an expert on heatstroke. Pet heatstroke is not the same as a stroke in a person. In pet heatstroke, also called hyperthermia or heat prostration, external causes raise the pet’s body temperature to a life-threatening level. Normally, a dog’s body temperature should not be higher than 102.5 degrees. Once a dog’s body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher, they are in serious trouble, and need aggressive emergency treatment to lower their temperature, and limit damage, because heatstroke can severely affect many body organs.”
Buddy answered our questions like the expert he is, but the Little Animal Hospital team would like to provide more details about heatstroke in your pet.
- Causes of heatstroke in pets — The most common causes include:
- Leaving pets in vehicles without adequate ventilation
- Leaving pets outdoors without shade or fresh water
- Exercising or making pets too excited in hot or humid weather
- Pet collars that restrict breathing
- The breed (e.g., pugs and bulldogs) puts the pet at higher risk
- Pet obesity
- Heatstroke signs in pets — If your pet is experiencing heatstroke, the first signs will include distressed breathing, restlessness, and blue or bright red gums, and some pets may drool excessively, gag, or vomit. The next signs may include neurologic abnormalities, weakness, and unsteadiness. In the latter heatstroke stages, dogs will collapse, and be unable to get up.
- Treatment for overheated dogs — Follow these steps
- Move your pet to a cool, shaded—preferably air conditioned—area
- Direct a fan onto your pet, particularly if no air conditioning is possible
- Soak towels in cool—never cold—water, and place over your pet’s neck, under their “armpits,” and in the groin area
- Wet their ear flaps and paws with cool water
- Record the rectal body temperature, if possible
- Transport the pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible
You must not overcool your pet, so avoid placing ice or cold packs on them. Heatstroke can affect every organ system, and is a life-threatening veterinary emergency. One study found that only 50 percent of pets who experience heatstroke survived.
Ensure you take Buddy the bulldog’s advice on summer heat safety for your pet. But, if you have more questions, or you think your pet is experiencing heat stress or heatstroke, the Little Animal Hospital team is here with all the resources you need, including advanced urgent care. Set up an appointment with our caring team, so you and your pet can enjoy the summer sun without suffering from the summer heat.