Hot Weather Hazards to Pets

Wednesday, July 18, 2012 — Summer’s hot and humid weather can pose a serious danger to pets. The American Red Cross has helpful steps to keep the family pets safe and healthy during the sweltering heat.

NEVER LEAVE PETS IN THE CAR. Pet owners should not leave their animal in the car, even for a few minutes, when the hot weather arrives. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees. Pet owners are urged to refrain from leaving animals in the car, even with the windows cracked open.

HEAT STROKE is a common problem for pets in the warmer weather. Dogs with short noses or snouts, like the boxer or bulldog, are prone to heat stroke. This is also true for any obese pet, a pet with an extremely thick fur coat or any pet with upper respiratory problems such as laryngeal paralysis or collapsing trachea.

Some signs your pet may be developing heat stroke include heavy panting and being unable to calm down, even when lying down. Their gum color may be brick red, their pulse rate may be fast, or they may not be able to get up. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke, take their temperature rectally. If the temperature is above 105 degrees, cool the animal down. The easiest way to do this is by using the water hose. Stop cooling the animal when the temperature reaches 103 degrees. Bring your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible as heat stroke can lead to severe organ dysfunction and damage.

PLANTS CAN BE HAZARDOUS. Pet owners also need to be aware that animals may try to get out a window or door, which are more likely to be open as the weather warms. And some plants in your garden can be hazardous to animals. For instance, many lilies are very poisonous to cats. Visit the ASPCA Poison Control web site to find out which plants and flowers are poisonous to animals.

Your pet is part of the family. And just like any other family member, pets deserve to be cared for and protected. Follow these important steps to help keep your pet at their best:

  • Give your pet plenty of exercise. Regular exercise will help your pet feel better and live longer.
  • Make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, cool water.
  • Get to know a veterinarian and make sure your pet has yearly checkups.
  • Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccines, especially rabies.
  • Get your pet spayed or neutered.
  • Keep dogs on leashes outside – another animal may be too much temptation.
  • Know how to perform CPR and provide basic first aid until veterinary care is available.
  • Animals can’t tell you when they aren’t feeling well. Many hide signs of illness until a problem is very advanced. Knowing what is normal for your pet and being able to recognize changes early, can make a huge difference in treatment success. The first step is to know what is normal for your pet – their gum color, heart/pulse rate, body temperature and breathing rate - so you can recognize when something is wrong.

    Additional tips are located on our Pets and Disaster Safety Checklist. Pet First Aid courses are offered at many Red Cross chapters throughout the country. The Red Cross has also developed Dog First Aid and Cat First Aid, comprehensive guides with DVDs to help your keep pets healthy and safe. From basic responsibilities, like spaying/neutering and giving medications, to performing CPR and preparing for disasters, these guides offer information pet owners can trust. Contact your local chapter to see when classes are available or to purchase guide books. Products can also be purchased online at the Red Cross Store.

    About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or join our blog.