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Mid-Michigan veterinarian encourages pet owners to be cautious of the heat

Alvan Nee

As Michigan is facing high temperatures this summer, pet owners are encouraged to be aware of how to properly care for their pets in heat.

Healthy Acres Veterinary Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Ashley Roseberry-Miller said pets, similar to humans, can have heat strokes.

“They don't have great abilities to sweat, so they usually just sweat through like the pads of their feet, for example, for dogs, and so they do pant to respire off some of the heat and moisture,” Roseberry-Miller said.

According to the United States Humane Society, some signs your pet is experiencing a heat stroke include “heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.”

If a pet owner believes their pet is having a heat stroke, they should contact an emergency clinic and bring them to a cool area, according to Roseberry-Miller.

“Make sure to bring them in and kind of cool them just like you could with a kiddo. You could hose them off or put them in a cool but not cold tub to kind of decrease their temperature slowly,” Roseberry-Miller said. “If they're really concerned though they should probably contact a veterinarian or an emergency clinic for directions.”

Roseberry-Miller said there are some steps pet owners can take to ensure your pet doesn’t overheat, including keeping them indoors, keeping the humidity low, supplying access to water and shade if they are outside and not leaving them in cars or small spaces.

“In cars, people need to recognize that the temperature inside of a car can raise by up to 40 degrees within one hour, so with the windows up,” Roseberry-Miller said. “So, even if it was 70 degrees outside, which feels room temperature to us, for pets that means that you can be getting up to 110 degrees in a car.”

If a pet owner is planning on taking their dog for a walk, they should check the heat of the surface they are walking on, especially if it is asphalt. Pets can burn their paws if the surface is hot enough.

The way to check is to put your hand on the surface, and if it feels hot, you should refrain from walking your pet.

“Blacktop surfaces are not great for pets in the summer,” Roseberry-Miller said. “So, they should, you know, be cautious when walking them on surfaces like that, because those temperatures can be over 20 degrees warmer than even the air temperature, and it can cause superficial burns to their pads or worse.”

Roseberry-Miller said long-term effects are not common for pets who experience heat stroke, but it is possible based on the circumstances.

“If they truly experience heatstroke, it can affect their vital organs,” Roseberry-Miller said. “Because the blood starts to shunt its way around the body so you can experience organ dysfunction, it can be serious. That is not common.”

Certain dog breeds including Boston terriers and bulldogs are more prone to heat stress, according to Roseberry-Miller.