Updated: Sep 28, 2021
It’s summer in Minnesota, and while for people this means fun in the sun, for pets this brings a risk of overheating. We call this heat exhaustion.
Humans are much more effective than pets at keeping cool! We do this through sweat, but our pets don’t sweat like we do. This means their systems aren’t nearly as efficient at keeping cool. Our furry family members can easily overheat and this can quickly become a medical emergency.
These are the most important things to remember to keep your pet safe during warm weather:
Be sure your pet has access to fresh water
Keep your pet out of the sun and indoors or in the shade
Don’t take long walks or exercise heavily, especially around mid-day
Walk your dog on the concrete or cement
Don’t rely on fans to keep your pet cool—they’re not effective for pets like they are with people
Never, ever leave your pet in a parked car! Not even just for a short period of time.
This is what to watch for to assess if your pet may be overheating:
Panting that seems faster than usual and does not resolve in a reasonable amount of time (Go with your gut! If you think it’s faster and lasting longer, it probably is.)
Drooling, if your pet is not usually a drooler
Lethargy to the point of not responding to you
Glazed eyes, or eyes that aren’t following you or seem non-responsive
Additional possible signs: confusion, weakness, diarrhea and vomiting or muscle tremors.
If you think your pet is showing signs of heat exhaustion call your veterinarian as soon as possible and seek emergency care. Even if your pet seems to be recovering, they may need to be monitored for shock, dehydration, kidney failure, and other possible complications of heat exhaustion. Your vet will be able to advise you about next steps.
If veterinary care is not available:
1. Take your pet to a cooler area, preferably indoors, immediately.
2. Lower their body temperature by wetting them thoroughly with cool water. Do not use cold water! It seems counterintuitive, but cooling too quickly can actually be just as dangerous as heat exhaustion. For very small dogs or puppies, use lukewarm water instead of cool.
3. Apply more cool water around their ears and paws. This helps reduce fever.
4. Put them in front of a fan to dry off.
5. As they continue to cool down, provide them with small amounts of lukewarm or cool water to drink. Again, not cold water, and no ice!