by Sharon Stapf, Southern Maryland Volunteer Coordinator

As the weather gets warmer, we see a lot of warning about not leaving our pets in hot cards. But you might not realize that a closed car isn’t the only challenge in warm weather. Any environmental temperatures that are very warm may adversely affect our pet volunteers, including a room that’s uncomfortably hot.

Heat stroke can occur quickly when your pet’s core body temperature rises excessively. Dogs and cats can’t sweat through their skin. They sweat through glands in their paws or pant or breathe rapidly to cool down. This is a less efficient method of dissipating heat, and it can mean that your pet can become dangerously overheated more quickly than you might realize. Here are some steps to avoid your pet becoming overheated, and some tips on what to look for and what to do if you suspect your pet is too hot.

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Prevention: The best way to avoid overheating or heat stroke is with some simple preventive steps.

  • Never leave a pet unattended in a car.
    Even on days outside temperatures are only moderately warm or with windows cracked open, the temperature in a car can rise rapidly.
  • Avoid walking on hot surfaces like asphalt. If the pavement burns the back of your hand, it can burn your pet’s paws, too.
  • Bring cool water for your pet. Make sure you have a container your pet is comfortable drinking from that you bring with you. Adding ice helps water stay cooler longer, too. No matter what you’re doing, always take frequent water breaks.
  • Plan your visit for the coolest parts of the day. Early in the morning or evening hours are often much cooler.
  • Limit your time in over heated rooms.
  • Watch your pet for signs of overheating or distress.
  • Avoid exercising in direct sun & limit pet exercising on hot days.
  • Consider a pet-cooling vest. A cooling vest can be a huge help, especially if your pet is prone to overheating or has difficulty breathing, is heavier or older. Vests cost $20- $60 average – you can find them in pet specialty shops or on Amazon (shop with Amazon Smile and you can make a donation to Pets on Wheels at no extra cost, too).

Signs and symptoms of overheating: If you see any of this signs, take immediate action to cool your pet.

  • Excessive panting or salivating.
  • Cats may exhibit excessive grooming or licking of fur.
  • Producing only small amounts of urine or no urine.
  • Disorientation or signs of confusion
  • Stumbling, wobbling or trouble walking
  • Elevation in body temperature
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness

Treatment: If your pet does overheat, don’t wait to begin treatment.

  • Move your pet to a shaded, cool place and begin cooling to reduce elevated body temperature. Cool your pet with fan, if available. Place wet towels or cooling packs over the back of the neck, armpits and groin. Cool paws or let your pet stand with paws in cool water to help lower body temperature.
  • Let your pet drink as much cool or cold water as wanted. Contrary to some myths, drinking cold water is a good thing when overheated.
  • Transport your pet to the closest veterinary facility immediately. Complications from heat stroke may not begin to appear until several days after the incident — prompt veterinary care can potentially prevent or treat some of these complications.

If you routinely visit at a facility away from your local veterinarian orif you are attending a summer event, you may want to look up veterinarian facilities in the area – it’s always better to be prepared.

Chilling out isn’t just good for the soul, it’s good for the body in the summer, too. A bit of advance planning and quick action can make the difference between being uncomfortable and being in distress, so be sure to take care in the heat.