Keep pets safe in the heat

Let’s Be Sure To Take Care Of Our Pets In Hot Weather

Dogs and cats do not sweat through their skin like humans. They release heat primarily by panting. If they cannot effectively expel heat with this act, their internal body temperature will rise. This can damage the animal’s internal organs, which can be a cause of death if not treated promptly.

“Leaving a dog in a vehicle in hot weather can be fatal. A parked vehicle can get heated in no time and can bring on a heat stroke in your pet dog.” 
Dr. Jagath Jayasekera, the Chief Veterinary Surgeon of the National Zoological Gardens in Dehiwela, Sri Lanka.

After a recent death of a one-year old lab left in a car in the summer heat, people in Toronto, Ontario were outraged. The owners were charged and fined, bringing hope of further penalties to seriously warn careless animal owners. Michael O’Sullivan, chairman of the Humane Society of Canada, said each summer brings its share of needless, easily preventable tragedies.
“I’ve heard every excuse under the sun for why somebody’s dog gets really sick or dies … and I’m just sick of hearing them,” O’Sullivan said in a telephone interview. “The bottom line is that animals are living, breathing creatures, and they depend completely on us for care.”

Stages of overheating 

Your pet will look tired and distressed

Its tongue will be very floppy and very red in colour

Your dog may begin to heave as it pants, or even “roar” – described as sounding like severe asthma 

Its body temperature will rise (normal temp approx 38.5C) 

Its airway will swell and throat may become full of white foam (caused through the excessive panting) 

Most of these symptoms are also warning signs in cats, especially panting

How to help prevent heat strokes

NEVER leave your dog alone in the car on a warm day, regardless of whether you parked in the shade and the windows are open. 

Avoid vigorous exercise on warm days. When outside, opt for relaxing in shady areas.

Keep fresh cool water available at all times. If heading away from home with your dog, even if you think it’s just a ‘jaunt to the store’ bring a bowl, just in case, and bottles of water for both of you.

Provide shade and cool water to dogs living in outdoor shelters. 

Certain dogs are more sensitive to heat, especially obese dogs and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds. Use great caution when these dogs are exposed to heat. Never expose dogs with airway disease or impaired breathing to prolonged heat.

First aid

First, move your dog or cat out of the heat and away from the sun right away.

Begin cooling your pet by placing cool, wet rags or washcloths on the body – especially on the foot pads and around the head.

DO NOT use ice or very cold water! Extreme cold can cause the blood vessels to constrict, preventing the body’s core from cooling and actually causing the internal temperature to further rise. In addition, over-cooling can cause hypothermia, introducing a host of new problems. 

Offer your pet cool water to drink, but do not force water into their mouth.

Call or visit your vet right away – even if your pet seems better! Internal damage might not be obvious to the naked eye, so an examination is necessary (and further testing may be recommended). 

Sources include, and

8 thoughts on “Keep pets safe in the heat

  1. Great post, Gina. Thanks for the useful information. My cats live indoors, but I’m glad to know this as I can share it with clients when necessary.

  2. In the heat of the fall (yes, it’s still in the 90’s here in October), someone dumped three beautiful little bunnies in a field behind the school, after apparently raising them to be auctioned in the county fair (they are tattooed). We wound up rescuing them and now they are housemates. The kids are over the moon. And they are too cute for words! (

    1. Oh my GOSH – first off how could someone ‘dump them’. Grrrr. But then… Yay! Now they’re a part of your wonderful family. How awesome is that? I had a pet rabbit for 8 years (all her life). Loved her so much. Rabbits are really fun. Good for you!!

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