Pet perspiration: How to keep your pets cool during extreme heat

·4 min read

It isn't just people who can be stressed by high heat — dogs and cats need to chill out too.

Temperatures on P.E.I. have soared past 35 C over the last few weeks with the humidex factored in — meaning pets may be at risk of heat exhaustion.

Luckily there are several tips and tricks to keep cats cool and pooches from perspiring.

"Certain animals are more prone to heat issues and heat exhaustion and those would be older animals. Those would be animals that might have underlying medical issues. So if you have an older animal with a heart condition, for instance, or an asthmatic cat," said Dr. Claudia Lister, veterinarian and part owner of New Perth Animal Hospital.

Dog breeds with a short nose may also have a harder time with heat, she said.

"Pugs, French bulldogs, shih tzus that have a shorter face, those are actually animals that are at higher risk."

Hydration is important, Lister said. Often people think having shade outside is enough to keep pets cool — but it is not enough if the temperature is too high and they don't have access to fresh water, she said.

"Kiddie pools can be helpful," she said. "Having access to that type of cooling, some dogs really, really, really enjoy the kiddie pools."

She said while your dog may like a kiddie pool, your cat probably won't.

Lister said if a dog is inside a home and there is no cooling system, a fan may not be enough and people should consider lowering the blinds to keep the home as comfortable as possible.

Sheehan Desjardins/CBC
Sheehan Desjardins/CBC

At the P.E.I. Humane Society staff are trying to keep dogs from getting too hot.

"It's certainly a challenge this time of year. [In] most of the animal care space we don't have cooling so there are a lot of fans going," said Jennifer Harkness, development and communications manager with the organization.

She said cats have fans too, but seem to be a lot less stressed about the heat compared to dogs.

The organization also makes up puppy ice pops.

"We freeze Kongs with treats or wet food inside and so we will give those to them in the afternoon when it gets a little hot," she said, "Not only does it keep them occupied in their kennel, it helps them to cool off a little bit."

Harkness said the organization also fills up a small pool for dogs to play around in — and when it's really hot, dogs are walked a lot less. However, she said if your dog likes the beach that is another way for it to cool down quickly.

Elysha Enos/CBC
Elysha Enos/CBC

Lister said dogs shouldn't be walked in the hottest points of the day — typically between 10 a.m and 2 p.m.

"If you can't hold your hand on the pavement it's probably too hot for your dog," she said. "Over the years I certainly have seen scalded pads from walking."

If people plan to leave their dog at home, Lister said it is important to make sure they have access to fresh water at all times and ensure dogs won't get stuck somewhere they shouldn't be.

Lister said a few years ago one of her clients accidently left a door open in their home when they went to work.

"The dog got closed into a sunroom ... that was attached to the house and obviously overheated and couldn't get out."

Risk of heatstroke

Lister said an increased heart rate can be a sign animals are struggling with the heat. If you do suspect your pet has a heatstroke you can check their heart rate behind the elbows, or on the sides of the chest on a dog or a cat.

"Panting, drooling, sometimes vomiting" can all be an indication of overheating, Lister said.

If people want to cool their dog quickly, Lister said you can apply cool or lukewarm water to a dog's chest and feet — but she doesn't recommend really cold water as it could shock the animal.

If people suspect that their pet is suffering heatstroke Lister said it should be taken to a vet.

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