Press Release 7/18/19
-By Dr. Tracey Maione, DVM, Medical Director Oz Animal Hospital and board member of the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association
When a heat advisory warning goes into effect I immediately worry about my furry patients. That’s because they have less ability to cool their body temperatures than we do, and they can’t tell us when they develop symptoms of overheating known as hyperthermia. Most people don’t realize dogs and cats don’t have sweat glands throughout their whole body which is our most efficient way of cooling down. Instead, they must rely on panting for cooling which is not as helpful at dropping core body temperature. Top that with a lot more hair than we do and certain breeds that can’t cool off with panting effectively and we have our pets at higher risk than us for developing heat stroke.
Heat stroke can be fatal within minutes. I will never forget the frantic call I received from a pet owner whose beloved French Bull Dog died in their arms after being left outside in their backyard only 15 minutes in a heat advisory- heat stroke was later confirmed as the culprit. Then we have all heard the horror stories of pets passing in cars with the windows up- the temperatures even without a heat advisory reach lethal levels in cars. Fortunately, new laws in Chicago have allowed for faster rescue and even prosecution for animal cruelty as necessary.
This time of year I want to remind everyone of the do’s and don’ts of keeping pets healthy during a heat advisory. The common injuries I see are thermal burns, sunburns, and hyperthermia which can lead to heat stroke if not addressed quickly. The most susceptible pets are brachycephalic breeds (those with short noses), those with long/thick fur, those with black fur, overweight pets, and puppies and geriatric pets.
- Pack plenty of water when leaving home and have it available/offer frequently
- keep air conditioning running indoors
- monitor breathing rates and behaviors every few minutes- seeking shelter and cooling immediately if changes noticed
- stay in shaded areas, avoid pavement/asphalt and check the temperature with your hand- if it’s hot after a few seconds to you then it can cause burn wounds to their paws and body
- Limit walks outside only for restroom breaks and seek early morning or evening times when it’s more cool
- Apply tepid/room temperature water to the belly and paws of an animal that appears to be in distress/panting excessively for rapid cooling
- Seek immediate veterinary attention if your pet is in distress
- Go for long hikes
- Leave your pet outside unattended
- Leave your pet in a car alone ever
- Use freezing or cold water when trying to cool your pet down