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Cats and Dogs: the risks associated with hot weather

Posted by Mélanie De Nobile on

Dogs and cats are vulnerable to the hot weather in summertime just like humans. When the temperature climbs, it is essential to ensure the comfort of your cat or dog and prevent health problems, like heat stroke. To help keep your pet safe and healthy in the summer heat, it is important to understand the cooling mechanism of it’s body, recognize the signs of a heat stroke and how to prevent it, and, learn all the other risks associated with the heat and the strategies to prevent them.


Cool down, furry ball

Have you ever wonder how does your pet keep cool in hot climates at the peak of summer? The answer might not be what you thought. When temperature rises, the body temperature of your pet naturally rises, so it needs to get rid of this extra heat. Unlike humans, dogs and cats have very few sweat glands, with most of them located in their paws.


Dogs regulate their body temperature mainly by panting with their mouths open. Dogs pant for two main reasons. Firstly, the moisture on the tongue evaporates while panting, while the heavy breathing allows moisture to evaporate from the moist lining of their lungs. Furthermore, dogs cool off via vasodilation. The blood vessels in their face and ears expand, which enables the blood to flow closer to the skin, allowing heat to be exchanged with the outside environment.


Because paws have too small a surface area to do much cooling, cats have developed additional strategies for coping with heat. They seek out shady spots and try not to exert themselves. Also, like dogs, cats like to lay down on cool surfaces and use conduction to cool themselves off. Finally, in extreme weather, cats will also pant. But unlike dogs who pant regularly to keep themselves cool, a panting cat is a sign of more dangerous over-heating.


Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when body temperatures rise to dangerous levels and pets are unable to accommodate the excessive heat using the techniques mentioned above, leading to organ dysfunction and death in some cases. The symptoms of heat stroke, include lethargy, labored breathing and unresponsiveness. If your pet experience any of these symptoms, he should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.

It is important to know that short-nosed breeds are more at risk of suffering from heat stroke. This includes the following breeds:

  • English bulldogs;
  • Pugs;
  • French bulldogs;
  • Boston terriers;
  • Persian cats.

Long-haired pets and other cold-weather breeds are also at a high risk for overheating, such as:

  • Great Pyrenees;
  • Chows;
  • Alaskan malamutes.

The best advice we can give you to prevent your pet from experiencing heat stroke is to keep him in the shade when outdoors, avoid exercising in high temperatures, and provide ventilation and cool water to him when indoor. Also, you should never leave your pet inside your car as the temperature can reach deadly levels within minutes.


Other common risks associated with the heat


Dogs with skin folds are at risk for developing an infection in those skin folds, called skin fold pyoderma, that can be very itchy and uncomfortable. When it gets hot, the skin folds become very humid which allows infection to develop. The best way to treat skin fold pyoderma is with medicated shampoo to get rid of the bacteria. You should also see your veterinarian to determine whether an antibiotic is needed. Your veterinarian will likely recommend wiping the folds with medicated wipes and keeping them dry.


Burned Paw Pads

The temperature of asphalt roads can raise to a dangerous degree with the summer sunshine, even when the temperature outdoors feels pleasant. If the asphalt or sidewalk is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it is also too hot for your dog or cat. If you must walk your pet on asphalt during the summer, remain in shaded areas. We also recommend to carry your fur friend to grass or dirt areas, or purchase shoes to protect his paw pads.


Playing outside without access to water on a hot day can cause dogs to become dehydrated. Make sure to always carry water for your dog and offer it periodically. Another tip: freeze a large bottle of water before going out with your dog on a hike or a picnic. As the water melts, you have cold water to offer your dog.


In conclusion, make sure to be aware of your cat’s or dog’s behavior when the temperature is rising. Also, remember that dogs are at higher risk from heat exposure because we take them with us on summer adventures. Remember to go at your dog’s pace on a walk or hike, take plenty of water breaks, and encourage rest. Enjoy summer time with your pet!

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