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Posted on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

Common sense, precautions can protect animals from heat-related illness

By Lorrie Shaw


Flickr photo courtesy of Andrew E. Larsen

The current heat wave in Washtenaw County affects everyone, including pets.

With the heat index into the triple digits, more care is needed to protect the health of our furry friends. I always recommend a few rules of thumb to keep pets safe and healthy in these sweltering temperatures and brutal sun — especially for very young or senior pets.

Provide adequate shelter and limit activity Just like humans, pets require proper shelter from the sun. I frequently hear: "Oh, dogs are meant to be outdoors, they know what to do." It's true, they do! They are smart enough to seek refuge in shady spots or a sheltered area. They typically take siestas when the temperatures are at their highest, to allow their bodies to stay cool. If at all possible, keep them indoors in the air conditioning. If you must keep your pets outdoors, be sure that they are sheltered from the sun and in a secure place.

If you exercise your pets, do so in the morning when the effects of the heat are at their lowest, and take things slowly!

Keep activity on the streets safe Don't let your pooch linger on hot concrete or asphalt. Because they are so close the ground, your pet's body heats up quickly, and paw pads can burn as they are sensitive. When I'm walking clients, I always walk them on the grass. (Use care to check for signs that a lawn has been freshly fertilized or treated with pesticides and avoid those areas.)

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water for your pet, every day. We keep bowls inside, of course, and also set fresh bowls outside each morning while our dogs play so that they can drink at their leisure.

Don't leave your pets in the car Temperatures can rise quickly in a parked car. I typically don't even take my pets anywhere with the heat index in the triple digits. The onset of heat stroke can happen quickly, even in healthy pets. If it's uncomfortable for you, it is for them, too!

Don't forget the sunscreen Pets get sunburn, too. Read more here.

Know the signs of overheating It's difficult especially for pets with flat faces, like pugs and Persian cats - they can't pant as efficiently so extra care needs to be taken. Pets with lung or heart disease need to be treated with special attention, too. Dr. Lila Miller, ASPCA vice president of veterinary outreach explains, here. If you suspect that your pet is experiencing difficulty, get them to a veterinary care professional immediately.

Lorrie Shaw resides in Dexter Township with her family and lives her passion as professional dog walker and pet sitter for many species of animals. Staying up to date on the pulse of pet-related topics, she blogs about them frequently. If you have an issue or topic that you would like to see addressed, contact Lorrie viae-mail.



Fri, Jul 9, 2010 : 9:51 a.m.

I didn't see anything on here about keeping a box fan running for your dog. Is that a no no? I don't have pets (sadly) but my place got into the 90's inside right along with the outdoors plus had just horrible humidity. No AC here, although we've been lobbying for it. Would a box fan be dangerous in any way?

dading dont delete me bro

Thu, Jul 8, 2010 : 6:19 p.m.

@robyn, hunh? my lab is 17 months and weighs 95 lbs. he's built like a horse. he's got the english lab head, chest and tail, but the field (american) lab height. he was that big 6 months ago too.


Wed, Jul 7, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.

Great Blog Lorrie. Thanks. Champ is fine now - but I still can't help worrying about him. Thankfully the ER vet in Ann Arbor figured out what was wrong with him (after two trips to our regular vet and one to a new vet earlier in the day). The new vet suspected EIC but had never seen it before and sent us to the ER. The vet there had a colleague that had done research on the condition and was familar with the symptoms and treatment. Thankfully our baby was treated soon enough, the outcome could have been very bad. On another note: I know people love their dogs and want to take them everywhere they go, but in this kind of heat - please leave your dog home rather than taking them to the store with you. Even a few minutes in a car - with the windows partially open - can become an oven. That five minute stop can be horrible for your waiting pet. I keep seeing dogs in cars while the owner is in the store. As much as you think it's better to bring your little buddy along with you because they want to be with you too - sometimes it's better to do what's good for them rather than what feels good to you.


Wed, Jul 7, 2010 : 3 a.m.

Good tips! I always go by the rule "if it's too hot (or cold) for you outside, it's too hot for your pet. Domesticated animals aren't meant to be kept outside 24/7. My dog likes the "ice cube treat" although she won't "chomp them", she just licks them, but if I try to pick it up she grabs it and runs in that "Mine mine mine!" fashion. :o) Love your pets!

Lorrie Shaw

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 11:07 p.m.

Robyn: Thank you for reminding me about EIC - I am so sorry that your family experienced that! I hope that he continues to do well despite having suffered one episode of it. I wrote a quick blog detailing the syndrome and where folks can get more facts and possible testing for it. So important. Here's the link:


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 9:44 p.m.

People with young Lab's need to be very vigilant. Some pup's are genetically predisposed to 'exercise induced collapse' - this can occur when the dog is just playing normally. They really don't have to be running or playing hard. If you have a Lab that is less than 2 years old and it seems to be overheated and not cooling off even after bringing them in to a cooler place and hydrating them - take them to the vet ASAP. EIC is a condition where their body doesn't regulate their temperature properly. Once they get heated up - they don't cool back down like they should. EIC can lead to heat stroke. They usually outgrow this condition - but I still pay close attention to my Lab - he suffered EIC 3 years ago after spending 15 minutes outside with the kids jumping in and out of the kiddie pool. Even under those conditions - cool water and plenty to drink - it still happened.

Lorrie Shaw

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 7:54 p.m.

Ice cubes are a great idea... our Gretchen isn't so fond of them anymore; I think that her teeth are sensitive, but when she was ounger she would *run* to the kitchen if the freezer door was opened. Dogs sometimes get a bit overzealous though when they munch on them, so keep an eye on them as they enjoy their frozen treats. I sometimes feed regular 100% juice popcicles to our dogs, and they like 'em. I highly recommend making "pupcicles": freeze meat or veggie stock in ice cube trays and offer the tasty 'cicles to your pooch. They'll love you! Some folks offer frozen fruit, which is ok in moderation - but please avoid grapes or raisins. Both are toxic to dogs! (Try watermelon, though. It is considered safe in moderation.)


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 7:44 p.m.

ice cubes are good as long as your dog actually chumps them up. I know of two people that gave thier dogs ice cubes in their water bowl, the dogs lapped up the water so fast they choked on the cubes! both were given the doggie heimlich maneuver. This could probably happen if the cube is already starting to melt and is more slippery? Additionally, with my dog, if he's been out and running around I gradually give him cooler water, if he drinks cold water too fast on a warm day he just gurps it up and his tummy will make funny noises that make him look uncomfortable. He also likes a cool washcloth rub down to his head and face :)

dading dont delete me bro

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 4:13 p.m.

my lab lives for ice cubes. he thinks they're treats, so he thinks he's getting spoiled in this weather.

Ann Dwyer

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

When we're out and about with or little dude, he won't drink water. Instead, we feed him ice cubes.

Theresa Taylor

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 10:57 a.m.

VERY GOOD TIPS indeed! I actually carried a camping bowl and bottled water on our walks over the weekend, as it was just way too hot. HYDRATE, people! And yes, use some stinkin' common sense! I also appreciated the sunscreen link. Thx!


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

Excellent tips! Thank you for reminding, those who need reminding, that it is as important to remember our pets, and all animals, as it is the elderly and kids. Hoping everyone, especially including our favorite fuzzy friends, stay inside and keep hydrated!