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Posted on 06-14-2016

As summer sets in here in Roswell, Georgia and the humidity and heat start ramp up, we must remember to take precautions with our furry family member. Dogs and cats begin to experience heatstroke (hyperthermia, medically speaking) at the same internal body temperature as humans do — 104° F. Severe heatstroke begins at 105° to 106° F for both humans and our furkids. It might be more difficult for you to gauge temperature with smaller pets, but there's one rule of thumb to keep in mind. Always watch the heat index for Atlanta. Meteorologist use the heat index value to discuss what the temperature is once humidity is applied; it's this balance of heat and humidity that can be dangerous to the health of your pet and you.

Animals bodies work differently than human bodies. Dogs and cats use evaporation gradients to lower their internal body temperature. How does this work? Rather than relying upon sweat, the principal mechanism that a dog uses to cool himself involves panting with his mouth open. This allows the moisture on his tongue to evaporate, and the heavy breathing also allows the moist lining of their lungs to serve as a surface from which moisture can evaporate. In this way the dog can manage a significant cooling of his body temperature. On a day where the temperature and humidity are very high…every day of summer here in Roswell, this method of cooling is not efficient, which can cause an internal temperature increase. And this is where heatstroke or heat stress can begin.

So what are the signs of heatstroke? Excessive panting, lethargy, and dark red tongue and gums are common warning signs for heatstroke. More severe symptoms include staggering, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, and a coma. If a pet every exhibits any of these severe symptoms, immediate emergency care is necessary.

How can you avoid this summertime nightmare for your pets? Follow these simple guidelines and your pets will have a fun and safe summer:

  • Keep pets with predisposing conditions like heart disease, obesity, older age, or breathing problems cool and in the shade. Even normal activity for these pets can be harmful.
  • Provide access to water at all times.
  • Avoid places like the beach and especially concrete or asphalt areas where heat is reflected and there is no access to shade.
  • Wetting down your dog with cool water or allowing him to swim can help maintain a normal body temperature.
  • Do not leave your pet in a hot parked car even if you’re in the shade or will only be gone a short time. The temperature inside a parked car can quickly reach up to 140 degrees.

  • Make sure outside dogs have access to shade.
  • On a hot day, restrict exercise and don’t take your dog jogging with you. Too much exercise when the weather is very hot can be dangerous.
  • Do not muzzle your dog.
  • Move your dog to a cool area of the house. Air conditioning is one of the best ways to keep a dog cool, but is not always dependable. To provide a cooler environment, freeze water in soda bottles, or place ice and a small amount of water in several resealable food storage bags, and then wrap them in a towel or tube sock. Place them on the floor for the dog to lie on.

Have a great and safe summer!!

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