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For the Last Time, Don’t Leave Your Pets in Hot Cars!

It’s another scorcher!

As heatwaves spread across the country, taking special care to protect your pets from the dangerous effects of summer’s heat is crucial.

In the summertime, you need to provide your pets with adequate shelter to protect them from the sun and the heat. You’ll also want to keep them regularly groomed, and always have cool, fresh water available.

And if you’re on the go, please don’t leave your pets in the car. You’ve heard it a thousand times, but it bears repeating. NEVER leave your pets in a hot car.

You might think, “it’s not that hot out,” but on an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes — even if the windows are cracked open or you’re parked in the shade. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees, and your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or death.

So, for the last time — don’t leave your pets in hot cars!

Here are some other things you need to remember when temperatures rise.

Pets Can Get Sunburns Too

Most people don’t think their pets can get sunburned since they’re covered in fur, but they certainly can. White and lightly-colored pets can suffer sunburn just as humans can if they experience too much exposure to the sun.

Long-term sun exposure can lead to skin damage and in some cases skin cancers. Limit the amount of time your fair-haired pets stay in direct sunlight. Even basking in a sunny window counts as time in the sun.

If any type of discoloration or sore appears, consult your veterinarian for a check-up. Areas that are commonly affected are the lips, ears, eyelids, and nose.

Pets Overheat Easily

When an animal’s body temperature rises, normal cooling mechanisms are overwhelmed, and overheating occurs. Heat stress can happen in minutes, especially in pets that live primarily indoors. Still, outdoor pets can succumb to the heat, too, if their cooling mechanisms are exceeded by weather extremes.

A good grooming session can help relieve heat stress. Make sure your pet’s coat is only trimmed down to a few inches — do not have your pet shaved down to the skin as this eliminates the natural protection of the coat and predisposes your pet to sunburn and other injury.

In the heat of midday, keep your dog indoors in either air conditioning or in a well-ventilated area with circulating fans. Even if your dog accompanies you everyday on a walk or jog, certain weather extremes may call for some changes. Limit vigorous exercise to early morning and after sunset or eliminate long walks/jogs until the weather cools. Also remember that dogs can burn the pads of their feet on hot pavement.

Be aware that the outside temperature may actually be warmer than what the thermometer reads. The heat index, a measure of the temperature and relative humidity, makes it more difficult for a body to cool down by perspiration. A temperature of 85 F can actually feel closer to 100 F (or higher) depending on the index.

Heat Stroke is Dangerous and Deadly

Heat stroke is a condition arising from extremely high body temperature, which leads to nervous system abnormalities that may include lethargy, weakness, collapse, or coma. Abnormally high body temperature (also called hyperthermia) develops in pets after increased muscular activity with impaired ability to give off heat due to high heat and humidity or respiratory obstruction.

Allowing pets to remain in a car with closed windows on a hot summer day is probably the most common cause of heat stroke.

Dogs dissipate heat from their skin. In addition, panting allows evaporation of water from the respiratory tract and is an effective method of heat dissipation. When these mechanisms are overwhelmed, hyperthermia and heat stroke usually develop. The elevation in body temperature stimulates the body to release substances that activate inflammation. At temperatures greater than 109 Fahrenheit, failure of vital organs, and consequently death, can occur.

Even cats may pant after brisk play or in times of environmental stress, so no matter what animal you have, excessive panting should not be ignored.

Heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps can occur after exposure to extremely high environmental temperatures. These illnesses occur in all mammals, but can be prevented by taking proper precautions.