“It’s a safe bet that if it’s hot outside for you, it’s even hotter for your pet,” said Dr. José Arce, DVM, and president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) told PEOPLE.
As temperatures remain high around the world, Dr. Arce wants to remind pet owners that extreme heat can be dangerous, even deadly, for cats and dogs. Like humans, pets can suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke when exposed to high temperatures for too long. This is true for both indoor and outdoor pets.
According to Dr. Acre, during summer months or when temperatures are high, pet owners should watch for signs of heat exhaustion in their furry friends. Heat exhaustion often precedes heat stroke – a fatal heat-related illness where the body can no longer cool itself.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion in cats and dogs include anxiety or restlessness, excessive panting or drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, abnormal color of the gums or tongue, and instability or collapse. Additionally, cats with heat exhaustion may begin to breathe with their mouths open.
“If you observe this in your cat, it is always an emergency. Any cat exhibiting this should be taken to the vet immediately for emergency care,” Dr. Arce added of the open-mouth breathing in felines.
The vet also recommends taking your pet to the vet right away if you notice any of the listed symptoms of heat exhaustion to prevent the problem from getting worse.
“Heatstroke is a serious illness that can lead to death. Always be careful with your pets in hot weather,” Dr. Arce said.
To prevent heat-related illnesses from taking hold of your pet, Dr. Arce recommends providing your pet with constant access to fresh water, shade in outdoor areas, and space well ventilated inside.
In hot weather, time spent outdoors should be limited for pets. Dr. Arce suggests trying to time dog walks to early morning and evening — when temperatures are cooler — and shortening afternoon walks. When walking, it is best to avoid walking on cement or asphalt, as these surfaces can heat up in the summer and burn a dog’s paw pads. Dog owners should try to keep their walks in the shade or on grass during a heat wave.
“Never leave a pet in your car. Every year many dogs die of heat exhaustion from being left in parked vehicles. The temperature inside a vehicle can rise nearly 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes and nearly 30 degrees Fahrenheit in 20 minutes, so on a 70 degree day the temperature inside your vehicle can quickly reach 100 degrees, which is way too much warm for your pet,” Dr. Arce said of protecting your pet from extreme heat during car rides.
“Cracking the windows and parking in the shade makes no difference. Even if you think it’s just going to be a quick stop, leave your pet at home or reschedule the ride when your pet isn’t with you “, he added.
There is no set temperature where heat becomes dangerous for animals because each animal’s sensitivity is different. Heat may be more harmful to some pets due to their weight, age, health status and activity level.
“Older, obese pets or pets with certain medical conditions may be at increased risk of heatstroke. In general, pets with longer or darker fur, or brachycephalic pets, can i.e. pets with flat or sunken faces, such as pugs or Persian cats – may have additional difficulty dealing with heat.If you have any questions or concerns about your pet, speak to your veterinarian,” Dr. Arce advised.
The vet noted another summer hazard that some pet owners might overlook: sunburn.
“Sunburn is another summer pet safety risk that many pet owners may not be aware of. Although all dogs can be susceptible, some dogs are at higher risk for sunburn. than others, such as hairless dog breeds, dogs with white or fine coats, and dogs with mildly pigmented noses and eyelids,” Dr. Arce said.
“Cats that enjoy sunbathing are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer; owners should allow shade and sun breaks,” he added.
Pet-safe sunscreens are available for pets prone to sunburn. It is important that pet owners only use sunscreens designed for pets on their cats and dogs, as other sunscreens can cause health problems in pets.