Protect your pets from the heat

Summer safety tips

Pets need to be protected from the heat, especially in the summer when temperatures are above 85 to 90 degrees. Ideally they should be housed inside, but if this is not possible then they should be provided a cool, shady spot with plenty of water. It is very important not leave your pet outside unsupervised if there is no protection from the sun! Walks and play time outside should be shortened as heavy exercise can cause body temperature to quickly rise to a dangerous level. This is especially true for certain breeds (such as bulldogs and pugs) and significantly overweight dogs which have difficulty panting and regulating their body temperature. It is also important to bring along a bottle of water for your dog as well as yourself for any outdoor activities. When you run errands, please leave your pets at home. Even with the windows down, a car can heat to dangerous temperatures in just a few minutes. Therefore, never leave your pet in a parked car during the summer.

Any of these situations can lead to an emergency medical condition called heat stroke, which comes about from a significant increase in body temperature. Dogs and cats do not have the ability to sweat the way that people do, and their fur serves to trap heat. They attempt to lower their body temperature by panting heavily which can lead to fluid loss and severe dehydration. The high body temperature, along with dehydration, can lead to severe organ damage, shock and even death.

Owners should be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke:

  • Excessive panting
  • Bright red tongue, gums, or skin
  • Marked warmth of skin
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Progression to weakness, depression, vomiting and/or diarrhea

If you see any of these symptoms, seek veterinary care immediately. While lowering body temperature is important in these circumstances, you should avoid submerging your pet in ice-cold water as this can actually make the condition worse. Instead, you can wet the fur with cool/room temperature water and place him or her in front a fan while you make preparations to visit a veterinarian.

The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center is open 24 hours, seven days a week for emergencies. 614-292-3551, www.vet.osu.edu/hospital.

Posted: 7/7/10

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About the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State

Founded in 1885, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine is ranked fifth in the nation and includes more than 1,000 faculty, staff and students in the Departments of Veterinary Biosciences, Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and Veterinary Preventive Medicine. The Veterinary Medical Center is one of the largest specialty referral centers in the world, with more than 35,000 farm, equine, and companion animal patients each year. A nationally-recognized ambulatory practice and teaching unit in Marysville, Ohio provides farm animal experience to every veterinary student, and the Food Animal Health Research Program in Wooster, OH focuses on detection, control, and prevention of disease. Located on the only campus in the country with a comprehensive medical center offering seven health sciences colleges, we admit up to 162 veterinary students per class, and offer a new comprehensive graduate program in Veterinary and Comparative Medicine as well as a unique Master’s degree in Veterinary Public Health, in partnership with the College of Public Health. http://vet.osu.edu.