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Keeping pets safe in the heat

A Golden Retriever cooling off in the pool
A Golden Retriever cooling off in the pool

Jill Colton, staff writer

July 25, 2010 — With summer only halfway through, it's safe to say that the scorching temperatures aren't over yet. Even still, it's important to remember how the rising mercury can affect your beloved pets.

It's the dog days of summer and the Toronto Humane Society has some key points that you should watch out for when dealing with your animal and heat stroke.


  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate
  • Drooling
  • Thick saliva
  • Weakness or even collapse
  • If your pet's body temperature climbs over 104F (40C) -- they may be subject to vomiting.


    • Heat stroke occurs when heat gain exceeds the body's ability to dissipate heat.
    • The liver, brain and intestinal cells are usually the first to be affected by heat stroke.
    • Normal body temperature for a dog is around 101F (38.3C) to 102F (38.8C).


    • Reducing body temperature immediately is imperative.
    • Do this by taking your pet out of the sun or the crate they are confined to.
    • Put your animal in cool/tepid water by immersing in a bath, gently hose down, or apply cool towels to the body.
    • Move your pet to a cool air-conditioned room when you can further reduce temperature.
    • Keep monitoring your animal's progress with a rectal thermometer, and stop the cooling process once normal temperature is restored.
    • Call your local emergency clinic.
    • Remember that an animal that recovers can still have organ damage and lifelong health problems. Just 15 minutes can be enough for an animal's body to climb from regular temperatures to deadly levels that can damage the cardiovascular systems.


      • If a dog's temperature reaches 105F (41C), the animal is in critical danger of brain damage, vital organ failure and/or death.
      • Dogs' walks should be adjusted to reflect the weather conditions. If you must walk your dog, do so when temperatures have cooled off (ie: early morning/late evening).
      • Always bring a supply of water for your dog when out on a walk.
      • Find shade so your dog can rest if he or she gets too hot.
      • If your dog likes it outside, make sure you bring them in during the hottest part of the day.
      • Air-conditioned rooms are a good way to keep your dog cool.
      • Shave your dog's fur or hair down to a one-inch length (but never to the skin) so they have protection from the sun.
      • **Animals are not able to sweat the way humans do -- they pant and sweat through their paws.


      • Cats should remain indoors at all times because there are many hazards that could cause injury to them.
      • Even though cats like to lie in the sun, it's important to not keep them in a room without ventilation.
      • Cats should always have access to a source of fresh water. Check two to three times a day to make sure the bowl is full.
      • Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat.
      • Cats will pant if they overheat and sweat through their pawpads.


      • Animals with flat faces (Pugs, Bulldogs, Shih Tzus are typical examples) are more susceptible to heat stroke because they can't pant as effectively.
      • Pets that are overweight or have heart/lung diseases should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.
      • NEVER leave your pet in a parked vehicle. Even if the windows are open, vehicles can become extremely hot in a very short period of time.

      With files from The Toronto Humane Society

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