Global warming and climate change play a huge role in the rising temperatures here in the Northwest and around the world. Summers seem to be getting longer and hotter all across the world and these rising temperatures are impacting people, animals of all kinds, and ecosystems. With longer periods of warmer weather and higher temperatures, it’s important to know the signs of dehydration, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion and how to prevent and treat this issues.
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:
Dehydration symptoms in people include extreme thirst, less frequent and/or dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and/or a dry mouth or 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 spots on top of their skull, and listlessness or irritability.
Increased heavy seating
A weak but fast pulse/heart-rate
Pale or cold/clammy skin
Loss or change of consciousness
Hot, red, dry, or moist skin
High body temperature (103F/39.4C or higher)
Rapid and strong pulse/heart rate
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 is 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, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness, loss of consciousness, lying down and unwilling/unable to get up and a rectal temperature over 104 degrees. A temperature of over 106 degrees is an emergency. For cats, the symptoms include: panting, sweaty feet, vomiting, lethargy, restlessness, bright red tongue/gums/mouth, or a rectal temperature above 105 degrees. Cats should have a normal temperature should be around 100-103 degrees
How to Stay Cool
The good news is that prevention is the best way to ensure 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 It Is Cool. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, the hottest part of the day is usually around 3 pm. Going for walks during the cool moments of the day, like before 9 am or after 7 pm, 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.
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!
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. Grooming during the summer and sunnier days should also include regularly applying pet-safe sunscreen, especially for dogs and cats with little to no fur. Like humans, pets can get sunburnt and skin cancer from too much time in the sun and areas like their ears and noses are particularly susceptible.
Go Swimming. 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!
Note: If you use flea and tick medication, particularly topical medication, do not take your pup swimming for a couple of days after the fact. Many of these medications can be water resistant but could endanger aquatic invertebrates and upset water ecosystems.
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 your pet is just hot, helping them cool down can help prevent heat exhaustion from becoming 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 or even turn around. Always have water available for your pets on hikes! Collapsible water bowls and water bottles can make all the difference. A good rule of thumb is to turn around and head back when you are halfway done with your water, no matter what your plans might be!
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 100°-120°F within minutes. Leaving them in the car, even for ‘just a few minutes’ can spell danger for your pet and could result in death.
Overall, the most important thing about any summer or warm period 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 3 pm) 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!