Protect pets from warm weather risks

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 10, 2022

By Susan Collins-Smith
MSU Extension Service

RAYMOND, Miss. — When temperatures rise, it’s not just humans who need to take precautions.

Heat stress is just as serious and life threatening for pets as it is for humans.

While both dogs and cats can get too hot, dogs are more susceptible to overheating, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

“Humans sweat to cool off, but dogs don’t,” said Carla Huston, Mississippi State University Extension veterinarian and professor with the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “Dogs cool themselves by panting and drinking water. They have a very limited ability to sweat through their noses and foot pads. When the outside temperatures are too warm and they don’t have access to adequate shelter and clean water, they can overheat easily.”

Warm weather can be too much for dogs even when it does not seem that hot to humans.

Use caution with dogs and limit their outdoor time if they do not have appropriate shade and cool, clean water when the heat index is 80 degrees and above, Huston said.

The following protocols can help keep pets cool when temperatures rise:
•       Provide unlimited access to fresh water and shade.
•       Exercise dogs in the cooler parts of the day.
•       Stay off hot surfaces, such as asphalt, when exercising dogs. Hot surfaces can cause serious burns to their paws.
•       Never leave a pet in a vehicle, even for a short time. Temperatures in vehicles can rise to dangerous levels within minutes.
•       Talk to the pet’s veterinarian about whether to trim or clip a dog’s coat and whether to use sunscreen on the pet. If sunscreen is used, be sure to use products specially formulated for pets.
•       Keep them free of parasites, including fleas, ticks and heartworms. Discuss the appropriate products and dosages with the pet’s veterinarian.

Heat injuries in pets can range in severity from heat stress, which is the least severe, to heat stroke, which can be very severe and lead to death. Early signs of heat stress in dogs include excessive panting, excessive drooling, anxiousness, restlessness, bright-red gums and unsteadiness. Animals showing signs of heat stress should be kept rested, taken inside or cooled off, and given plenty of water.

The more serious signs of heat stroke can include pale gums, unsteadiness, tacky or dry snout and mouth, vomiting and diarrhea, nonresponse to the owner or commands, and collapse. If dogs experience any of these symptoms, get emergency veterinary care immediately.

In cats, heat stress can cause restless behavior, panting, drooling, moist or sweaty paw pads, and excessive grooming as they try to cool off. Collapse, seizures and death can occur if the cat cannot cool down.

Another summertime danger for dogs is blue-green algae.

“Pets should not be allowed to drink from or swim in lakes or ponds that may be contaminated by blue-green algae blooms, which are bacteria called cyanobacteria,” Huston said. “These algae can be toxic and result in fatal poisoning.”

Contaminated water usually has a foul odor, may appear green with a bluish tint and could be covered with thick, slimy algae, she said.

For more information about blue-green algae, other places it can grow, and what to do if a pet is exposed, visit the Pet Poison Helpline website at https://bit.ly/3AiE5N8 and the VCA Animal Hospitals website at https://bit.ly/3OSgebv.

Treating pets for external parasites will help keep their skin and haircoats healthy and maintain their ability to protect against temperature extremes and other potential injuries. Medications for fleas, ticks and heartworms are just the first step in protecting pets from parasites. Depending on where a family lives, it may also be necessary to treat the yard and other areas that pets frequent to successfully control fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

“Not allowing pets inside the house is the surest way to avoid having fleas inside the house, but not all pet owners favor this method,” said Blake Layton, Extension entomologist. “Whether or not pets are allowed inside, the first step in flea control is to treat pets with an effective and appropriate on-pet treatment.
“Good, on-pet flea preventive, combined with frequent cleaning of pet bedding areas, can keep fleas from becoming established in the house or yard,” he said.

Extension Publication 2597, “Control Fleas on Your Pet, in Your House and in Your Yard” has more information about flea biology and flea control methods and products for pets and homes. Find it on the Extension website at https://bit.ly/2VOUv8D.