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The Scoop … Keep Pets Safe During Dog Days of Summer

Many of us look forward to the warm weather in Minnesota. The summer can bring fun times with your pet, but it can also bring health hazards. A major health concern for pets (especially dogs) in the summer is overheating, which can result in heat exhaustion and even heatstroke. Dogs do not sweat like humans to release excess heat; rather they rely on heavy breathing (panting) to cool themselves. When they are unable to cool enough with panting, their body temperature can elevate to dangerous levels. Some signs of heat exhaustion and/or heatstroke are excessive panting, confusion, weakness, collapse, bright red gums and tongue, vomiting, and diarrhea.

If any of these signs are present in your pet, get them in a cool place and seek veterinary care immediately. Heatstroke is often fatal in pets, so prevention is vital. Outdoor time on hot days should be short and involve non-strenuous activities. Limiting playtime is necessary in energetic dogs. Provide access to plenty of fresh water and shade. Never leave your pet in a car in the heat. Dogs who like water often benefit from a kid-size pool for fun. If your dog is bored and needs stimulation, things such as food puzzles, frozen stuffed Kongs, and toys and/or treats frozen in ice chunks are all options. 

All dogs are at risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke, but there are some more prone to it. Brachycephalic breeds (flat-faced dogs such as the pug, shih tzu, bulldog, etc.), Nordic breeds (husky, malamute, spitz, etc), double-thick-coated breeds, overweight dogs, puppies, and seniors are all at a higher risk. An important factor in recognizing danger signs is to know your dog’s habits. Changes in the way they walk, breathe, interact with others, or any other differences in their typical manners may be red flags. If you have any concerns, contact your family veterinarian immediately. Early intervention increases their chances of survival.

Enjoy summer with your pets, and be safe!

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