Protecting Your Pet from The Summer Heat


As we head into a heatwave in this very hot July, pet owners are wondering how to best protect their pets from the high temperatures. The Clifton Times spoke with Dr. Abdallah Abdelaziz (Dr. Aziz) of VCA Foster Animal Hospital.

Managing Dogs In The Summer Heat: Exhaustion and heat stroke are very common in dogs. For many dogs, outdoor activity at temperatures above 82 degrees Fahrenheit can be dangerous, and for some dogs even temperatures in the 70-77 degrees Fahrenheit range can be too hot. Older dogs, dogs with flat faces (brachycephalic dogs like Frenchies, Boxers, Bulldogs, pugs,or Boston Terriers), dogs with double coats, and dogs with darker fur are particularly sensitive to the heat, as they’re less able to cool themselves.

When To Walk Your Dogs: Dr Aziz reminded dog owners to walk dogs in the early morning or at night when temperatures are more tolerable and to avoid the hottest hours of the day (from 10 am to 2 pm). Keep walks as short as possible, and save longer hikes for early mornings or cooler days. Carry cold water with you and stick to the trees for more shade. The pavement can get extremely hot, often hotter than the air temperatures as it retains heat, and can burn their paws. According to data reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association, when the air temperature is 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the asphalt temperature registers 135 degrees Fahrenheit. To find out if the ground is too hot for your dog to walk on, place your hand comfortably on the pavement for ten seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.

Advice for All Pets In The Summer Heat: All pets are susceptible to temperature changes, and care should be taken to protect cats, birds, rabbits, and other pets from the summer heat.

Keep the Temperatures in Your Home Low:  When you have to leave your pets alone at home, make sure that they're in a cool room with access to water.  

Do Not Leave Your Pets In A Vehicle: Under NJ Rev Stat § 4:22-26 (2022) it is illegal to leave any living animal in a vehicle in “inhumane conditions adverse to [their] health and welfare.” Even in normal temperatures, an animal’s body temperature can get very high in a car, where heat builds up more quickly than in well-ventilated areas. When it's 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour. When it's 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature inside your car can heat up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit in as little as 10 minutes. Rolling down the windows has been shown to have little effect on the temperature inside a car. For more on what to do if you see a pet in a parked car, please see HERE.

Keep Your Yard Shady: Any time your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse, as it does not allow air to flow through.

Watch the Humidity: Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels very quickly. So in addition to watching the temperatures, also keep an eye on the forecast for the humidity levels. 

Signs of Heat Stress and Heat Stroke: Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature: the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.

Dr. Aziz advises pet owners to look for signs of heat stress and stroke.  First look for changes in activity. Is your pet looking lethargic, confused, stressed, or having a hard time moving? Then check your pet’s gums - are their gums dry or sticky or an abnormal color? Are you noticing excessive panting, drooling, or an elevated breathing rate? These, along with seizures, diarrhea, and vomiting can be signs of heat stroke.

If your pet is showing signs of distress, stop playing, take the pet into the shade, give them cool water, and run the air conditioning if you can. You can also give them a cool shower (avoid making it too cold as that will stress the animal) to help them cool down. Do not cover the pet as it will increase their body temperature.  

If you can take their temperature, Dr. Aziz advised that 101.5F to 102.5F is normal for cats and dogs and above 105F is an emergency, for which you should go to the veterinary hospital.  The Veterinary Emergency Group (VEG) on Route 3 in Clifton is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  

As we head into Wednesday’s heat wave, we hope all Cliftonites will take steps to keep their pets safe from the heat and remind everyone to leave out water for the wildlife, who also suffer from the extreme heat.

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