As the summer heats up, you spend your days floating in the cool water of your pool, sipping on delicious, fresh-squeezed lemonade. Your furry pal looks on in disdain at the chlorinated water, horrified that you splashed a small wave their way to try to cool them off. You know your pet must be sweltering in the direct sun, and the stifling heat and humidity, but they refuse to jump into the pool. You expect your pooch to head inside through the doggy door to the cool, air-conditioned indoors, but despite the heat, your four-legged friend is a stalwart companion, and refuses to leave your side. The scorching sun sends you into a daze, as you drift lazily around the pool to the sound of your dog’s heavy panting. Suddenly, you hear a splash. Peeved at your pooch for soaking you, you sit up to scold them, but see your beloved pup sinking to the bottom of the pool. Panicked, you scoop up your dog, and leap out of the pool to dry land. Thankfully, your pet coughs up the water, and seems to be alright, except for continued hacking and a dazed look in their eyes. You call it quits, and head indoors to catch up on the latest episode in your favorite Netflix series, while carefully monitoring your dog. Fortunately, no lasting harm was done. But, your bulldog will spend the future summers mostly indoors. 

All too often at Mill Creek Animal Hospital, we see pets suffering from heat exhaustion, which can lead to debilitating heatstroke without prompt intervention. Some pets, like bulldogs and other flat-faced breeds, are at a higher risk for developing heatstroke, especially in high temperatures and humidity. However, relatively mild temperatures in the 70s can pose a threat to your pet, since they can quickly become overheated if too active, or exposed to too much sun without adequate ventilation, water, and shade. Learn how to protect your furry pal from the heat, and the appropriate action to take if you notice an issue. 

How to keep your pet cool

Unfortunately for your fluffy friend, they can’t unzip their fur coat to cool off when the temperature rises. Instead, it’s up to you to monitor your pet’s comfort while outdoors to prevent overheating. Keep your pet cool with the following methods:

  • Exercise your pet during the early morning or late evening, avoiding the hottest part of the day.
  • Stay away from sizzling pavement, which can retain the sun’s heat well into the night, and walk on grass or dirt instead.
  • Keep plenty of fresh, cool water available for your pet when outdoors, as well as adequate shade and proper ventilation.
  • Groom your pet regularly, to prevent matting, and aid in natural thermoregulation.
  • Learn the warning signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, so you know when to call it quits when playing with your dog.

Learn the warning signs of heatstroke in your pet

You cannot help your pet during a heatstroke episode if you’re unsure about the warning signs. When outdoors with your furry pal, always watch for the following:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Dark red gum color
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Staggering and loss of coordination
  • Disorientation
  • Collapse
  • Seizures

At the most subtle hint of heatstroke, take immediate action to cool your beloved companion at home before heading to Mill Creek Animal Hospital.

How to cool your pet down at home

When cooling down your overheated pet at home, avoid overdoing it and causing hypothermia. Pets suffering from heatstroke may lose consciousness, so monitor your pet carefully, to ensure they don’t inhale water during your cooling measures. To cool your pet quickly and safely, follow these steps:

  • Bring your pet into an air-conditioned area, such as your bathroom.
  • Point a fan at your pet to encourage heat dissipation.
  • Run cool—not cold—water over your pet, avoiding their head, in case they lose consciousness. 
  • Avoid wrapping your pet in wet towels, which will trap the heat.
  • Avoid applying rubbing alcohol to your pet’s paw pads, as this will cause the blood vessels to constrict and shunt the overheated blood to their core, increasing their body temperature. 
  • Check your pet’s temperature frequently, and discontinue cooling measures at 103 degrees. 

After your pet’s temperature has reached 103 degrees, call our team, to let us know you’re on your way with your overheated pal.  

Why veterinary care is necessary for your overheated pet

Although you have sufficiently cooled your pet at home, the excessive heat could have caused hidden damage to major organ systems. Pets who have experienced heatstroke could have kidney or liver failure, heart issues, clotting problems, and sometimes brain damage if their body temperature was too high for too long. A comprehensive veterinary exam with diagnostic testing is essential to ensure your pet does not need hospitalization and further treatment. However, heatstroke-related illness may not appear for several days, so keep in close contact with your Mill Creek veterinarian for careful monitoring.

If you suspect your furry pal has experienced a heat exhaustion or heatstroke episode, contact us for help as quickly as possible.