Auburn Veterinarian Offers Insight into Warning Signs of Heat Stress in Animals

Heat and humidity during the summer can affect us all, including our pets. Dogs and cats can easily suffer from heat stress, heat stroke and other heat related illnesses during the hottest months of the year.

Dr. Kuo tends to injured dog in critical care

Dr. Kendon Kuo, an emergency and critical care faculty clinician in the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, offers insight on how heat can affect our pets and what steps to take to keep them safe in the sun during the summer and over the holiday weekend.

There is a broad spectrum of heat related diseases in pets that can vary from simple heat cramps to organ failure and death, Dr. Kuo said. “There is a wide range, and symptoms can go from not looking serious to very serious very quickly.”

It is important pet owners be on the lookout for abnormal behavior in their pets during the summer. Symptoms of heat stress include moving more slowly, breathing more heavily or acting lethargic.

While all pets can suffer from heat stress and illnesses, dogs are more likely to be active outdoors and more prone to heat related illnesses.

“Normal dog temperatures are around 100-102 degrees Fahrenheit,” Dr. Kuo said. “A dog may look okay, but their temperature could unknowingly increase to 105 or even up to 109 degrees.”

If your pet looks like they are getting weaker, has an increase in salivating, heavy panting or not wanting to participate in their normal activities, you should take it to their local veterinarian.

When it comes to heat related issues and illnesses, Dr. Kuo shared that prevention is key. “It is much easier to prevent a heat related illness from happening than to treat it,” Dr. Kuo said.

Heat related illnesses can be broken down into exercise and non-exercise related causes. To prevent exercise related illnesses, walk your dog during the cooler times of the day, make sure they always have access to water, keep your eye on your dog during outdoor activities and watch for abnormal behavior.

To prevent non-exercise related heat stress, make sure to never leave your pet locked in a car for any period of time or chained outdoors in an area with direct sunlight. Heat can build quickly in these enclosed spaces and overheat your pet in just a short amount of time.

Dog breeds with “smushed” faces, or brachycephalic breeds, are more prone than other dogs to suffer from heat related illnesses because they are unable to pant and breathe as well as other dogs and often unable to cool themselves sufficiently. Owners with English bulldogs, Boston terriers, pugs and other similar breeds should be especially attentive to their pets’ needs during the summer.

Now is a critical time during the summer to look for heat related issues with your pet. If your dog is not acclimated to being outdoors in the heat and humidity, it can be easier for them to suffer from heat stress. The college’s Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital, with an Emergency and Critical Care Service open 24/7, has seen up to multiple cases of heat stress a day during the hottest times of the summer.

With the Fourth of July approaching, it is also important to keep your pets in mind during a holiday filled with loud noises and plenty of greasy food for your pet to get into.

Dr. Kuo explained that the main concern with dogs and fireworks is the common anxiety or fear that dogs face with loud noises in general. It is recommended to have other noises happening as distractions so your pet isn’t too startled by louder noises.

If anxiety and fear is a real issue with your pet, Dr. Kuo recommends to talk to your veterinarian beforehand about certain medications that can potentially prevent and lessen anxiety.

Barbecue grease, fatty foods and other foods that can obstruct pets’ digestive systems are all common illnesses seen by veterinarians during summer holidays. To prevent pancreatitis and other diseases in your pet, make sure all foods are disposed of properly and ensure that your pet doesn’t get into toxic foods or garbage.

Watch below for more information and helpful tips on how to keep your pets safe and healthy during the summer.

Written by: Molly Lawrence