By now, the Pacific Northwest is in the throws of summer and as the last few years, many places are experiencing hotter days than average. Back in June, the Sea-Tac area hit a high of 95 degrees one day, just shy of the record 96 degrees hit in 2017. Global warming and climate change play a huge role in the rising temperatures here in the Northwest and around the world. And these rising temperatures are impacting people, animals of all kinds, and ecosystems.
Signs of Dehydration, Heat Stroke, and heat exhaustion
Signs In People
There are a few differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke in people. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke but heatstroke can also happen if it’s very hot or you overexert yourself. While you’re taking care of your pets this summer, also make sure to take care of yourself! If it’s too hot for you, odds are it’s too hot for your pets. Here are some signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke in people:
- Extreme thirst
- Less frequent/dark-colored urine
- Dry mouth/tongue
For babies/young children, dehydration symptoms also include no tears when crying, no wet diapers for 3 hours, sunken eyes and cheeks or sunken soft spot on top of their skull, and listlessness or irritability.
Heat Exhaustion Heat Stroke
- General weakness – High body temperature (103F/39.4C or higher)
- Increased heavy seating – Rapid and strong pulse/heart rate
- A weak but fast pulse/heart-rate – Hot, red, dry, or moist skin
- Nausea/vomiting – Loss or change of consciousness
- Pale or cold/clammy skin
Signs In Pets
Any type of hot environment can cause pets to experience heat stroke or heat exhaustion but being in a car on hot days or outside without shade or water are especially dangerous. The best way to deal with heat exhaustion/stroke in your pet is prevention but if something does happen, acting fast is critical. First, it’s important to know what the symptoms of heat exhaustion/stroke in animals are.
For dogs, heat stroke symptoms include:
- Excessive drooling/thick salvia
- Vigorous panting (beyond what is normal for your pet)
- Reddened gums
- Mental dullness/loss of consciousness
- lying down and unwilling/unable to get up
- Rectal temperature over 104 degrees. A temperature of over 106 degrees is an emergency.
- Dogs usually have a rectal temperature between 100-102.5 degrees.
For cats, the symptoms include:
- Sweaty feet
- Lethargy or restlessness
- Bright red tongue/gums/mouth
- Rectal temperature above 105 degrees
- Cats should have a normal temperature should be around 103 degrees
What to Do
If you suspect that your pet is experiencing heatstroke, you must act fast. Getting your pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible means that they can get the right treatment. It’s important to know that delaying medical care in these kinds of situations is not an option, as heatstroke and temperatures higher than 110 degrees can be fatal. According to The Animal Medical Clinic, there are a few things you can do if your pets seem hot. If you think it’s heatstroke, take them to the vet immediately. If not, here are some tips:
If you find your dog vigorously panting on a warm summer day, immediately move the pet out of the environment and into a cooler place. Getting the pet into a shady area with a fan running on him can be very helpful. Using cool, not cold, tap water on the extremities and trunk can also help to effectively lower the body temperature, as well as rubbing alcohol placed on the skin of the stomach. Do not use ice or extremely cold water. Although it seems logical, extreme cold will cause surface blood vessels to contract, forming an insulating area that traps heat in the body, delaying the cooling of the vital organs.
If you think that your pet is just hot, helping them cool down can help prevent heat exhaustion from becoming something much more serious or deadly. First, make sure that your pets have access to shade and water. If you’re out for a hike or walk and your pet seems really hot, it might be good to take a break for even turn around. Always have water available for your pets on hikes! Collapsable water bowls and water bottles can make all the difference.
How to Stay cool
The good news is that prevention is the best way to make sure that your pets stay healthy and happy during the summer and there are many fun ways in which you and your pets can stay cool during the heat.
Walk When Its Cool
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the hottest part of the day is usually around 3pm. Going for walks during the cool moments of the day, like before 9am or after 7pm, means you and your canine friend still get some exercise without dealing with the hot sun. If you need to go out when it’s hot, short walks in the shade will probably be the best option.
Additionally, be aware of how hot a walking surface might be, as the sun can easily make pavement way too hot for your pet’s paws and can cause burns and pain! If you’re not able to comfortably rest your hand on the pavement for 10 seconds, then it’s too hot for your pet. But there are ways to deal with this issue. Walking on the grass and/or cooler moments of the day can help; plus, dog booties can help protect your pet’s paws from snow and hot surfaces during the winter and summer months.
Keeping your pets groomed really helps. For most dogs, this means brushing their coats regularly during the summer (once or twice a week). Most dogs don’t actually need to get a haircut or shaved during the summer and doing so can actually cause more harm to them! Using the right brush can help get at your dog’s undercoat if they have a double coat.
Provide Shade and Water
You can’t make your pets drink but providing cool water sources around your home and yard means they always have access to water when they want it! Plus, having a shady spot to lounge in can make all the difference. For dogs, having a cool damp washcloth or bandana on their necks for a few minutes can help. Plus, having fans and/or air conditioning is great!
If your dog likes to be in or around the water, going for a swim can be a fun way to get exercise during the hotter months. Like with any exercise, it’s important to know when your pet might be tired and to not overdo it.
The good news about the Pacific Northwest is that there is plenty of dog-friendly places where your dog can get their feet wet! If you’re looking for something more relaxed, having a kiddie pool in the yard can be lots of fun too!
Cat Care in the Summer
Most cats are pretty great about keeping cool and finding nicely shaded spots. But it’s also possible that they experience heatstroke too so it’s vital that you also know the symptoms for cats and provide them shady, cool spots to lounge in and fresh, cool water.
Do Not Leave Your Pet in the Car
This is incredibly important! DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PET IN THE CAR WHEN IT’S WARM OR HOT. This goes for cats, dogs, and all pets because cars can get to be 100+ degrees within minutes. Leaving them in the car, even for ‘just a few minutes’ can spell danger for your pet.
Overall, the most important thing about any summer is to make sure that you and your pets stay cool and hydrated. Avoid walks during the hottest parts of the day (the afternoons, especially around 3pm) and make sure that the pavement isn’t too hot for their paws. Provide water and shade for all pets and sometimes, fans/air conditioning can really help!
What are some of your favorite ways to beat the heat during the summer?