Florida residents are fortunate and enjoy year-round sunshine and warmth, although the higher summer temperatures can sometimes be intolerable. Well-adapted pets can handle the heat better than pets in other areas of the country, but they can still fall victim to heatstroke, a deadly condition that only 50% to 80% of pets survive. The Palm City Animal Medical Center team has big ideas about keeping pets cool and we present our top tips.
#1: Keep pets inside during the hot midday hours
The coolest part of the day is the safest time for exercising pets, especially those who are extremely heat-sensitive or need to expend a lot of energy. Early morning hours are best, but late evening, after the sun sets, is also a good time. Keep pets inside or on a shaded, temperature-controlled lanai during the hot daytime hours.
#2: Evaluate your individual pet’s heat-related illness risk
Knowing how much heat your pet can tolerate means evaluating their individual risk factors. Pets who are more likely to succumb to heat-related illnesses include:
- Brachycephalic breeds (e.g., pug, bulldog)
- Overweight or obese pets
- Senior pets
- Young puppies and kittens
- Pets with heart, lung, airway, or endocrine diseases or disorders
#3: Know heatstroke signs in your pet
Heatstroke strikes quickly, and early recognition can mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful treatment. The first signs may include weakness, vomiting, or diarrhea. If heat exposure continues, a pet’s nervous system, organs, and blood clotting abilities begin to shut down. Signs may include the following:
- Stumbling or disorientation
- Rapid heart rate
- Excessive panting
- Red gums
#4: Encourage pets to take a dip when they feel hot
Many Florida homeowners are blessed with a pool, which can help pets cool down. If you don’t have your own pool, provide your pet with a baby pool or backyard sprinkler, or take them to a local pet-safe beach. If your pet is a beginner, you should supervise them closely and get in the water to help guide them and ensure they stay afloat. Never force your pet in the water, and always supervise any pet who likes to swim.
#5: Provide fresh water and shade at all times
Fresh water keeps pets cool and hydrated, and is always required, including while you’re out walking. Provide a constant water supply in multiple bowls outside to encourage pets to drink from the bowls rather than the chlorinated pool water. Shade is also important to give pets outdoors a break from direct sunlight.
#6: Try a cooling pet vest or mat
Pets who insist on spending time outdoors may benefit from a specialized cooling vest, which is designed to be soaked in water or chilled in the refrigerator and will stay cool for hours, helping to pull heat from your pet’s body. Cooling pet mats, designed for resting, use the same principles to lower your pet’s body temperature and increase the time they are safe outside.
#7: Never leave your pet in a hot car
A car in 70-degree weather can heat up to 110 degrees in an hour, threatening your pet’s life. Never leave pets in the car unattended—leave them at home if you plan to run errands and they cannot go inside with you.
#8: Be mindful of your pet walking or lying on hot surfaces
Hot pavement can burn your pet’s paw pads or skin. If they like to lie in the sun, provide them with an elevated pet cot that allows airflow circulation underneath, or a cooling pet mat. As always, monitor them closely and bring them indoors if they begin to overheat, because pets do not always recognize a problem and take action themselves.
Contact the Palm City Animal Medical Center team if you notice heatstroke signs in your pet. If our team is off-duty, head to the nearest emergency facility, cooling your pet en route by draping them in wet towels. Minutes matter when heatstroke strikes.
Speak with our team if you have additional heat or summer safety questions, or to schedule a summer check-up for your pet.