Temperatures can still be quite hot into September. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are common this time of year, and some breeds are more prone to the devastating and potentially fatal outcome of heat stroke than others–even if it doesn’t feel all that hot outside to you. While all breeds of both dogs and cats are susceptible, these breeds and situations are the most at-risk.
Short-Snouted Dog and Cat Breeds
Also known as “brachycephalic” breeds, these pets with shortened snouts and flat faces have the hardest time dealing with heat. Examples of these types of pets include the English Bulldog, Pekingnese, Boston Terrier, Pug, French Bulldog, Boxer, Shih Tzu, and the Persian cat. These breeds are notorious for having a smaller-than-average trachea (windpipe), which means they have difficulty inhaling large amounts of oxygen that are needed to pump oxygen rich blood to the organ and cool the body. Short-snouted breeds also have a tendency to be overweight, making it even more difficult to breath.
Arctic and Cold Weather Breeds
Breeds such as the Malamute, Husky, Great Pyreneese, Bernese Mountain Dog, Chow Chow and other breeds that are native to cold weather climates have a harder time coping with the heat of the summer. If your pet has a long, thick coat, he will be at a higher risk for heat stroke. Do your pet a favor this summer and shave that coat! This will help keep your pet cool.
Overweight Dogs and Cats
While obesity affects all breeds, it is important to remember that obese pets are at a much higher risk for heat related injuries. Obesity puts more strain on the heart and lungs, contributes to heat retention (think of a walrus with excessive fat to stay warm in the winter) and makes it much more difficult for pets to pant and cool off efficiently.
Pets in Humid Climates
Lastly, keep in mind that humidity plays a large part in your pet’s ability to keep themselves cool. While dry, desert climates require providing lots of water to account for the evaporation of sweat and saliva, humidity has the opposite effect. Pets cannot efficiently evaporate sweat and saliva (through panting) when the humidity is high, so they can quickly suffer heat stroke in high humidity climates, even when the outside temperature isn’t alarmingly high. Be sure to use caution when taking your pet outside during the heat, provide plenty of cool water and shade, and look for early signs of heat exhaustion such as excessive panting, unwillingness to continue playing, red gums and generalized lethargy. Keep your pet safe this summer!
By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a U.S. pet health insurance agency since 2005.