Treat for Heat
You already know leaving an animal in a hot, parked car can be deadly. “Conditions can become dangerous in as little as 15 minutes, even with the windows partially rolled down,” Rutter says. Put into perspective, “It’s like putting on a heavy coat in the summertime and sitting in a hot car for 15 minutes,” explains Camy Thumwood, creator of the Pet Alert Emergency Information System.
Pets can suffer heatstroke in open spaces, too—even when the pet parent happens to be an experienced veterinarian. “I once accidentally heat-stroked my own dog (an enthusiastic tennis ball chaser) on a humid 75-degree day,” Rutter says.
Look for symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, panting, fast pulse rate, red gums, and collapse, says Dr. Debbie Mandell, a board-certified emergency veterinarian and pet safety advisor for the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council.
When this happens, animals need prompt treatment, Nicholas says. “Get the pet to a cooler place, and begin actively cooling them (with water) if the rectal temperature is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Stop once the temperature is below 103.5.” (Do not submerge an overheated animal into an ice bath, as it can slow down cooling.) Then, get your dog to a vet, even if he appears fine. “Heatstroke can cause major problems throughout the body, including organ dysfunction,” says Dr. Steve Friedenberg, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine.
Keep pets indoors as much as possible when it’s over 75 to 80 degrees. When outdoors, they should have access to cool water, shade, and, if possible, air conditioning, Rutter says. Some animals need extra consideration. “Juveniles, geriatrics, pets with short noses like Bulldogs and Boston Terriers, and pets with underlying diseases are less tolerant of heat and humidity,” she says.
The same precautions should be taken if your pet has been sedentary all winter, advises Dr. April Blong, assistant professor of emergency and critical care at Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center at Iowa State University. “Keep the first warm weather session at 20 to 30 minutes and take cues from your pet. If they start falling behind, are panting very heavily, or stop panting, discontinue the activity and allow them to rest,” Blong says. “From there, you can gradually increase the duration and intensity of activity. Try to exercise your pet first thing in the morning when it’s cooler and less humid. Evenings are a second choice.”