Residents in Groves and many other Texas communities understand how high summer temperatures can climb, but may not understand how much their pets are at risk. Heatstroke can strike and kill in hours, but your simple actions can reduce this risk and keep your pets safe throughout the season. The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team shares their pet heat safety tips and insights.

Recognizing heat safety risks in pets

Heatstroke is the biggest heat safety risk for pets and occurs when outside temperatures, humidity, or other factors (e.g., excessive activity) overwhelm your pet’s cooling mechanisms and cause their internal body temperature to rise. Elevated body temperatures cause cells to malfunction and die, leading to organ failure, brain damage, clotting problems, neurologic dysfunction and, in many cases, death.

Heatstroke is usually preceded by heat stress or heat exhaustion—similar conditions that place stress on the body’s cells, but do not elevate the body temperature high enough to cause permanent damage. Heat stress signs, which include weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle cramps, are often related to dehydration.

Pets who continue to exercise or remain in the heat will most likely develop heatstroke, which affects every body cell and tissue, but signs typically are related to the heart and nervous system. Seek immediate veterinary attention if your pet has been exposed to heat and shows these signs:

  • Stumbling or disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising, including bloody urine or diarrhea
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Red gums
  • Collapse
  • Death

Reducing heat-safety risks in pets

Follow these tips to help you and your pet stay safe during the summer heat:

  • Stay inside — Staying inside whenever possible is the best strategy for many high-risk pets, including older, brachycephalic (i.e., flat-faced), or chronically ill pets. For others, avoid outdoor activity during the hottest midday hours to greatly reduce their risk.
  • Supervise pets outdoors — Never leave your pet outdoors unattended if they have no respite from the heat. If you notice heat stress signs, take your pet inside to cool down.
  • Do not leave pets in cars — Cars act like ovens on hot—or relatively cool—days. Never leave pets inside the car without air-conditioning.
  • Provide shade and water — Shade lowers ground temperatures significantly, and water keeps pets hydrated and enables them to cool down, because their body fluids evaporate as they pant. 
  • Help pets acclimate slowly — Pets who like to be active outdoors will benefit from a gradual increase in their daily time outside to slowly acclimate. 
  • Use cooling products or water toys — Baby pools, full-size pools, sprinklers, and cooling mats or vests are viable options for pets to spend more time outdoors and have some fun, but always supervise your pet when drowning is a potential risk.

Treating heat-related illness in pets

Pets with mild heat stress should go indoors into a cool area and drink cool water. If your pet’s stomach is upset, offer them ice chips. Check their body temperature rectally with a digital thermometer, if possible—if their temperature is 104 degrees or higher, and they are showing the more serious heatstroke signs listed above, they need prompt cooling measures and immediate care at our office or a veterinary emergency facility. Call the hospital before leaving for instructions on cooling your pet en route, which will increase their chances for a positive outcome. Pets with heatstroke often require intensive hospitalized care with specialized monitoring for several days.

Additional summer pet safety hazards

Other hazards to look out for during the summer include:

  • Hot surfaces — Pavement or metal can burn your pet’s paws or skin. Check surfaces before your pet lies down and encourage them to walk on grass, concrete, or dirt paths.
  • Getting lost — More pets go missing during summer, as people spend more time outside, host parties, and set off scary fireworks. Ask our team about a microchip to permanently identify your pet.
  • Parasites and bug bites — A monthly parasite preventive that you can obtain conveniently through our online store will help your pet avoid the misery and potentially serious diseases associated with fleas, ticks, and mosquito-borne heartworm infections. A pet-specific insect repellent also can reduce insect bites and potential allergic reactions.

Call our Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team in Groves, Texas, to learn more about heat safety, or to schedule a wellness visit and summer safety consultation. For pets experiencing urgent heat-related illness signs, head to your nearest veterinary emergency center for immediate, life-saving care.