Editor’s Note: Although this story was issued by Montgomery County Animal Control, the content applies to animals throughout Tennessee and any other regions during periods of excessive heat.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY: Although summer does not officially begin until June 21, the outdoor temperatures have already been averaging 10 degrees higher than average. During these high temperatures, it is important to remember that heat related illnesses in dogs and cats can set in quickly, sometimes within just a few minutes.
Dogs and cats are very susceptible to heat exhaustion, often followed by heat stroke if not treated immediately. Unlike humans who have sweat glands all over their bodies to help regulate body temperatures, dogs and cats only have a few around their noses and feet. They rely heavily on panting which is not as effective as sweat glands. The size, breed, and age of your pet can greatly affect how quickly it succumbs to heat related illnesses.
Heat exhaustion is the first stage of an animal succumbing to a heat related illness. Pets can go into heat exhaustion easily with little to no activity. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, rabid panting, vomiting, and reddening of the skin inside the ears. If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately move your pet to a cooler area near a fan and provide fresh drinkable water. Dampen the pet’s skin with lukewarm water and allow it to dry.
Heat Stroke, as with humans, can be irreversible and cause organ damage and death. This occurs when the pet cannot cool down fast enough. The normal body temperature of a dog can range from 100-102.5 degrees. A body temperature of over 106 degrees can mean death if not treated immediately. Signs of Heat Stroke include rapid panting, red or pale gums, thick sticky saliva, bright red tongue, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, shock, and coma. Seek emergency care immediately if this occurs. Once a pet has reached this point, only a trained veterinarian can properly treat this condition.
Steps to prevention:
- NEVER leave your pet in a parked car during warm weather not even if you parked in a shady area and only will be gone for a few minutes. The interior of your car can reach over 140 degrees in a matter of minutes, often fatal for any animal left in these vehicles.
- DON’T allow your pet to linger on hot surfaces like asphalt, concrete or metal. Many pets are close to the ground and heat rises from these surfaces, which often heat more rapidly. Your pet’s paws can burn on these surfaces.
- ALWAYS provide fresh drinkable water for your pet outdoors and indoors. Keep water in a shaded area and change it often so it remains as cool as possible. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes to keep your pet cool.
- CHECK on your pet often if they like to be outside and make sure you are providing the proper shelter and shaded area to keep them out of direct sunlight. Set out a kiddie pool for pets that like to play in the water or leave a yard sprinkler on for them to cool off.
- RESTRICT their activity to short walks, keep play time outside to a minimum, and allow them inside to cool off afterwards.
- REPORT instances of an animal that is left locked in a vehicle during warm weather, is not provided the proper shelter or water, or is being overworked to Montgomery County Animal Care and Control at 931-648-5750.
For additional information on how to care for pets in the summer heat, contact Animal Care and Control at 931-648-5750 or by visiting mcgtn.org/animal-control.