Carolyn E. Congleton, DVM
Louisville Metro Animal Services
Each summer Louisville Veterinarians treat numerous cases of heat-stroke and heat-exhaustion in pets. Unfortunately some of these cases end in pet death; sadly nearly 100 % of these cases are preventable. Most heat related deaths are in dogs and horses but sometimes cats can be victims of heat-related illness as well. In dogs the scenario is usually related to “forced exercise” or being left unattended in a car. Very rarely is a free-roaming dog victim of heat-stoke. A dog being chained outside without proper water and shade is also at risk of illness or death.
Dogs should always have access to fresh water and shade or shelter at all times. A dog house with ice water inside is preferable. A large tree in the back yard is excellent shade for people and pets. Because dogs cannot sweat like people they have a hard time regulating their body temperature during exercise. If they are pulled by a leash they can’t voluntarily stop (like we humans can), they just have to keep going even though they are exhausted! If you jog with your pet do so in the early morning before extreme heat. Always watch your pooch for signs of exhaustion such as excessive panting or salivating.
The normal body temperature for a dog in the summer is 101-102 F, temperatures above 105 are in the danger zone and your pet is in trouble. If you have a hunting dog do not hunt in the heat of the day, hunting is also considered forced exercise. Never leave your dog or cat in a parked car. The temperature can skyrocket in a matter of minutes and your pooch could parish!
If you have a horse that is exercised be sure to have water available and remember there should be a “cooling-down period”. Horses transported in trailers need good ventilation and fresh water. Do not leave your horse unattended in a trailer.
For more information contact your local Veterinarian or the American Veterinary Medical Association at www.avma.org