We are well and truly into our peak heat season, when the Valley of the Sun really lives up to its name! So we wanted to remind you of some simple steps you can take to avoid and recognize common heat related issues for your pets. Let’s all try to stay cool and healthy this summer!
Burnt Paw Pads
One of my “pet peeves” – pun intended – is having to treat pets, usually dogs, with blistered and damaged paw pads from being walked on hot sidewalks. You’ve probably heard it talked about or seen it, but it is a real problem here in Arizona because too many owners just don’t think about the temperature of the ground. At this time of year, dog walks on asphalt, pavement, sidewalks, or concrete need to be completed not too long after sunrise, or started a good while after sunset once the ground has had a chance to cool.
Check the ground before you let your dog walk on it; if it’s too hot for you to step on (or place your hand flat down on), it’s too hot for your dog.
If you must take them out (for potty breaks for example) during the heat of the day and it’s impossible to find grass, you can always order booties. I have clients who had great success introducing their German Shepherd – Maverick – to booties! Very useful for visits to the vet in summer too!
We’ve all heard of hypothermia, but here in Queen Creek and metro Phoenix a much bigger danger for both pets and humans is hyperthermia (heatstroke). Hyperthermia is an increased body temperature caused by environmental conditions.
Heatstroke can occur in all dogs; however some flat-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds like bulldogs, pugs, or Boston terriers are more prone to heatstroke than others.
Heatstroke in Arizona generally occurs when dogs are either left with inadequate ventilation in hot vehicles, or are left outside for extended periods without adequate shade or water, or if they are exercised in the heat of the day.
So please NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car, or outside without shade/water in the summer.
A recent study from Stanford University Medical Center found the temperature within a vehicle may increase by an average of 40f within one hour regardless of outside temperature. So even if it’s “just” 90f outside, your car could become oven-like in a matter of minutes.
The symptoms to look out for include heavy panting, excessive drooling, red or purple gums and tongue, vomiting, diarrhea, staggering/collapsing legs, racing heart, or seizures.
What to Do
- Immediately remove your pet from the environment where the heatstroke occurred.
- Move your pet to shaded and cool environment, and direct a fan on him.
- If possible, determine rectal temperature and record it.
- Begin to cool the body by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin region. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Directing a fan on these wetted areas will help to speed evaporative cooling.
- Transport to the closest veterinary office immediately.
What NOT to Do
- Do not overcool the pet.
- Most pets with hyperthermia have body temperatures greater than 105°F, and a reasonable goal of cooling is to reduce your pet’s body temperature to 102.5-103°F while transporting to the closest veterinary facility.
- Do not attempt to force water into your pet’s mouth, but you may have fresh cool water ready to offer should your pet be alert and show an interest in drinking.
- Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time.
Rapidly cooling the pet is extremely important. Cold tap water is suitable, but DO NOT use iced water.
If you believe you have lowered your pet’s temperature a little, don’t think the job is done. Severe hyperthermia is a disease that affects nearly every system in the body. Simply lowering the body temperature fails to address the potentially catastrophic events that often accompany this disorder. A pet suffering from hyperthermia should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Did you know that dogs can get swimmer’s ear too?
Swimmer’s ear is another term to describe inflammation in the outer ear canal (otitis externa) which is the part of the ear canal extending from the ear drum to the outside of the ear. The condition develops when water contaminated with bacteria is trapped in the ear canal for a long period of time. If the body’s immune system, its natural defense system, does not attack and kill the bacteria, then they will invade and cause inflammation. The trapped water combined with the warm, dark environment of the ear canal is the perfect brewing pot for bacteria.
Swimmer’s ear can be mild or severe, and it may require professional medical intervention to cure. The best way to know if your dog has swimmer’s ear versus an ear infection due to some other cause (such as allergies) is to monitor for trends. You read more about Swimmer’s Ear here.
Pets with light skin and a short or thin hair coat are particularly prone to sunburn, skin cancer, and other solar-induced skin diseases. If your dog’s coat is shaved during the summer for cooling, sunscreen may be helpful. Additionally, pets who have suffered hair loss from allergies, surgery, or cancer radiation can benefit from sunscreen.
In pets, sunburn can appear as red skin or hair loss. The most common sites for sunburn in cats and dogs are the bridge of the nose, ear tips, skin surrounding the lips, and any other area where skin pigmentation is low. You can read more about sunscreen for pets here.
Schedule an Appointment Today
If you have any questions or concerns about how to protect your pet through the brutal Arizona summer, or if your dog is showing any of the symptoms I outlined above, please contact us online or call 480.774.6995 to book an appointment at your home, or at our Queen Creek vet clinic.