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Health & Wellness

There’s a heat wave — how do I protect my pet?

Learn how to keep your pet cool.

Parts of the U.S. are predicted to experience a heat wave this week — and while you're stocking up your fridge with extra water bottles and ensuring your air conditioning units are working properly, you'll also want to consider ways to keep your pets safe during this time. 

“For pets, heat waves just create more opportunities for overheating and heatstroke,” Dr. Emily Singler, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. “It can be harder to find a time of day when it's safe for them to spend any considerable amount of time outside. They’re more at risk of heatstroke while outside for a short time or even while inside if there’s a problem with air conditioning in the home.”

How hot is too hot for dogs?

If it feels hot for you outside, it's definitely hot for your dog. Generally, if it's above 75-degrees Fahrenheit, you should pay close attention to your pet, and it may not be a good idea for them to be outside for long periods.

“Pets who live mostly outside are also at a greatly increased risk, even if they have a shaded or sheltered area where they spend most of their time,” Dr. Singler says.

When is it too hot to walk a dog?

Walking your pup during a heatwave can be a little tricky, too. Pro-tip: Hold your hand above the ground for 5 seconds before strapping on your dog's harness. If you can feel the heat radiating off the pavement, it's likely too hot to walk. 

To be extra cautious, avoid walking your dog during the peak heat hours, which are between 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. 

Signs of overheating in pets

Dogs typically experience overheating more than cats, and young and senior animals are at greater risk, Dr. Singler says. Other conditions, like being overweight, breathing problems (think: brachycephalic syndrome or laryngeal paralysis) or dogs with long, dark hair, make animals more susceptible to overheating. 

The signs of overheating in cats and dogs are similar, Dr. Singler says. Pups overheating may excessively pant, collapse, make sounds indicating that it's hard to breathe, vomit, have diarrhea or show signs of mental depression. In some cases, dogs may even bruise. 

It's not likely that your cat will pant as much as a dog unless they're stressed or have trouble breathing. Cats' breathing movements are more subtle, so it can be difficult to tell if they're having difficulty breathing (look for faster, shallow breaths).  

Overheating cats will usually lay on their side and may collapse, have mental depression, vomit, experience diarrhea and bruise, too.  

"If your pet shows signs of overheating, bring them out of the heat," Dr. Singler explains. "You can start to cool them down by placing wet towels over their body and placing a fan in front of them. Don’t submerge them in an ice-cold bath, as this can cause their blood vessels to constrict and hamper cooling. Offer water to drink, but if they are agitated, they may not drink."

Immediately contact your veterinarian if you notice weakness, collapse or any changes in their mental responsiveness, behavior or breathing, Dr. Singler adds.

RELATED: Here’s when to keep a dog water bottle with you

How to keep pets cool during a heat wave

Limit time spent outdoors

"During heatwaves, the most important tip is to minimize your pet's exposure to high temperatures, even if they’re not exercising," Dr. Singler explains. You can do this by limiting your pet's time outside, especially during hotter parts of the day. 

If your pet needs to go outside, make it a quick bathroom break, and don't leave them outdoors unattended (even if they have shaded areas to retreat to). 

Avoid overdoing it with the exercise

It's essential to avoid encouraging vigorous play during heat waves. But, according to Dr. Singler, dogs often push themselves to exercise more, even if it's sweltering outside.

Never leave a pet in a car

“Never leave an animal enclosed in a car with the air conditioning off, even for a few minutes,” Dr. Singler warns. “It doesn’t take extreme heat for a pet to overheat in a car, even if a window is down.”  

 Ensure your air conditioning is working properly

Something that’ll comfort both you and your pets is to ensure that your air conditioning is working properly. If there’s a chance your air conditioning is broken, Dr. Singler recommends staying somewhere else (like a hotel or with family or friends), if possible, during a heat wave.

During this time, pets must have access to fresh water and a relaxed, comfortable place to rest, too.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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