Seven Ways to Keep Your Pet Safe in Warm Weather


May 30, 2014

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Seven Ways to Keep Your Pet Safe in Warm Weather

PORTLAND, Ore.— High temperatures are slated to hit the Pacific Northwest over the next week, and the expert medical staff at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital encourages pet owners to pay special attention to their furry family members. “Portlanders like to get out and about during warm summer days,” says Dr. Jessica Casey, a veterinarian at DoveLewis. “But it’s important to realize how higher temperatures may affect pets. Keeping pets cool is crucial to preventing heatstroke and exhaustion.” Understanding your pet’s limitations and taking extra precautions in warm weather may be the difference between life and death.

Here are seven ways to keep your pet safe in warm weather:

1. Never leave your pet in the car. Leaving a pet in a car for a short amount of time can be deadly—even if the windows are cracked. The sun can raise the temperature in a car to 120 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. Even when outside temperatures are a moderate 70 degrees, a car or truck cab can become extremely hot inside. Remember, dogs don’t sweat; they pant to take in cooler air, and being in a hot car can make them panic, which only aggravates the problem.

2. Watch for signs of heatstroke. Heatstroke can be fatal if not treated quickly. Signs of heatstroke include: panting, vomiting, warm or dry skin, a rapid heartbeat, collapse, staring, anxious expressions and a refusal to obey commands.

If you suspect your pet has heatstroke, call DoveLewis immediately at 503.228.7281. In the meantime, try to lower your pet’s body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of your pet’s body (like the tips and back of the ears, foot pads, belly and inner thigh areas). Make sure there is complete penetration of the hair coat and that the belly and groin areas are wetted down as well. If you have a fan available, use it to help cool the animal while he or she is wet.

Avoid completely immersing a pet in water, because heat cannot leave the body as effectively in this situation, and extreme changes in body temperature are dangerous to your pet’s health. Often pets will respond after only a few minutes of cooling, but decline again when their temperatures soar back up or fall well below what is normal. With this in mind, remember that it is imperative to get the animal to a veterinarian immediately. Potentially life-threatening internal effects of overheating (such as clotting issues) may not be immediately apparent. In the past year, DoveLewis treated 11 patients for heatstroke.

3. Beware of how exercise in the heat can affect your pet. Don’t overdo it in the heat. Keep walks to a gentle pace, and make them short. If your pet is panting a lot or seems exhausted, it’s time to stop. Warm weather exercise followed by a trip home in a hot car may have deadly repercussions. Click here to read the story of former DoveLewis patient Tucker Sharp, who suffered heatstroke after going for a run on a hot day. “When Tucker was admitted, his owner was offered a prognosis for recovery of around 50%,” said Dr. Maree Doolan of DoveLewis. “Despite these odds, [his owner] allowed us to provide the best possible care for him. We were so thrilled when we finally discharged him home to his family.”

4. Give your pet extra water. Whether you’re indoors or outside, both you and your pet need access to lots of fresh water during the summer, so check water bowls several times a day to be sure they’re full. If you go outside, be sure to bring plenty of water for both of you.

5. Take extra precautions with older dogs and dogs with shorter noses. Just like older humans, older dogs can be especially susceptible to the higher temperatures. Also, certain breeds are not as good at adapting to high heat. Dogs with shorter noses (like pugs or bulldogs) may be at a greater risk for heatstroke.

6. Apply pet-safe sunscreen to your dog. Your pet can get sunburned, just like you, especially if he or she has light-colored hair. Animal sunburns can cause some of the same problems as with people: pain, peeling, and skin cancer. Keep your pet out of the sun between 10:00AM and 4:00PM. When you do go outside, rub a bit of pet safe sunblock on unprotected areas like the tips of the ears, the skin around the lips, and the tip of the nose. Some sunblock can be dangerous to your pets. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if it’s safe for babies, it’s safe for your pets.

7. When in doubt, opt for staying indoors. Animals can get sick quickly on hot days, even if they’re in the shade. Keep them inside as much as possible. If you have to leave them outside, check on them regularly.

Image: Former DoveLewis patient Tucker Sharp after he recovered from heatstroke


About DoveLewis
DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, established in 1973 and based in Portland, Ore., is the only nonprofit, 24-hour emergency and intensive care unit in the region. DoveLewis provides donor-funded programs to the community, including one of the United States’ largest volunteer-based animal blood banks, a nationally recognized pet loss support program, a partnership with Guide Dogs for the Blind to bring animal-assisted therapy and education to the community, 24-hour stabilizing care for lost, stray and wild animals and financial assistance for qualifying low-income families and abused animals. Celebrating 40 years of service to the community, DoveLewis has treated over 500,000 animals and has been deemed one of Oregon’s Most Admired Nonprofits by The Portland Business Journal for seven years! For more information, please visit

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