Summertime and the living is easy, so the old song goes. But along with the upsides and activities of the season come life-threatening risks for our dogs and cats. Pets Best Insurance knows this from the multitude of insurance claims filed for pets suffering from heat-related illnesses. It’s why we urge pet owners to exercise caution when spending time outdoors with their four-legged family members this summer. In this article, we’ll explain the serious risks associated with heat stroke and other issues hot weather can cause for our pets.
Heat Stroke in Pets
Among the most common and dangerous risks for canines is heat stroke, which occurs when a dog’s body temperature exceeds 106 degrees.3 When this happens there is a potential for damage to the brain and other organs. Any breed with a short or flat nose is at an increased risk for heat stroke. The reason being that their ability to breathe effectively is compromised, which can limit their ability to cool themselves in situations where heat and exercise are involved. Examples include English bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs, and Shih Tzus. In addition to heat stroke, fair-skinned and short-coated white dogs are highly susceptible to excessive sun exposure, which can lead to sunburn and skin cancer.
Many pet owners are likely unaware of how quickly heat stroke and other heat-related issues can occur in canines. The risks are especially high if a dog is left inside a car, even on days with mild temperatures. On a seemingly cool summer day of 68 degrees, the temperature inside a car can jump to 81 degrees within a mere 10 minutes. After an hour, the temperature inside the car can reach 115 degrees, a deadly level for dogs.1
Heat-related health issues are not only hazardous but also incredibly expensive. The average cost of heat stroke related claims received by Pets Best is $913.2
Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs include:
- Heavy panting or difficulty breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Bright red gums
To prevent heat-related illnesses, avoid outdoor activities during the middle of the day when temperatures peak. Also, ensure that your dog has access to shade and water while they enjoy the outdoors. If a dog is showing signs of heat stroke, pet owners should immediately move the dog to an air-conditioned area and seek veterinary care.
The Dangers of Foxtails for Dogs
Foxtails, also known as cheatgrass, come from tall grass that has gone to seed. They have sharp points and are difficult to extract given their barbed shape. They are the same annoying plants that get stuck in your socks when walking through high, dry grass and are usually found in vacant lots or overgrown areas.
Foxtails often get stuck in between pets’ toes, inside their ear canals, in their eyes, and in extreme cases, they can be inhaled through the nose. If this happens, a dog will suddenly have a violent sneezing episode. When foxtails become lodged in fur or other body parts, they can cause abscesses which often require surgery and immediate dog health care. Generally, long-haired dogs and dogs with floppy ears are at a higher risk.
Foxtails can also become lodged deeper into the oral cavity, chest cavity, or abdomen causing life-threatening pet health problems. Once they travel into these cavities, major surgery, which can be very expensive without pet insurance, may be required.
If a Foxtail is hard to find and migrates into the pets’ body so deeply, it can require multiple surgeries to locate. The migration may also cause infected tracts that can go into the lungs. Untreated, these migrations can result in serious pet health problems and even death.
Cats can also get Foxtail infections, but they are not nearly as common, likely because cats groom themselves and can remove the Foxtails before they become problematic.
The key to preventing pet health problems caused by Foxtails is to brush and inspect your pet often (especially after outside playtimes) and only allow your pet in well-manicured areas where Foxtails don’t grow.
Bug Bites and Poisonous Plants for Pets During the Summertime
Most insect bites are not serious and can be treated with cuddles and a warm dose of affection. Mosquitoes, however, are an exception, as a single mosquito bite can develop into deadly heartworm disease. Because of this potentially serious issue, you should ask your veterinarian about a heartworm preventative for your pet.
It is also important to realize that just because something naturally grows outdoors doesn’t mean it isn’t toxic. Mushrooms are a good example. They can cause rapid illness, shock, and even death to your dog. Most wild mushrooms are not toxic, but the poisonous ones are extremely dangerous. If your dog vomits, has diarrhea, salivates, or experiences weakness after ingesting a wild mushroom, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Paw Pad Burns
The hot summer sun can raise the temperature of asphalt roads to a dangerous degree, even when the temperature outdoors feels pleasant. If the asphalt or sidewalk is too hot for people to walk on barefoot, it is also too hot for dogs and cats.
During summertime, try to walk your pet early or late in the day to avoid the peak heat. If you have to walk your pet in the middle of the day, try to remain in shaded areas. Some pet owners opt to purchase boots to protect their animals’ paw pads from painful blistering.
Potential warning signs that your pet has burnt their paw pads include:
- Limping or not wanting to walk
- Darker or discolored pads
- Excessive licking of feet
- Blisters or extreme redness
- Torn or missing parts of the pads
If your dog suffers burns to their paw pads, immediately flush their paws with cold water or apply a cold compress. Burns can become infected, so if your pet’s symptoms are concerning get in touch with your veterinarian.
Summer is a time of fun in the sun for many pets and their owners. Just remember that it can also present significant risks for dogs and cats. Taking steps to protect your four-legged family members before you head out to enjoy the great outdoors can save you a costly trip to your veterinarian and ensure a safe and happy summer vacation. Because accidents and illnesses can occur at any time, it’s wise to have pet insurance. In general, the cost of pet insurance is low compared to the services it can cover and the peace of mind it provides.
1 Null, J. (n.d.). Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elasped Time.
2 Pets Best Insurance. (n.d.). Internal Claim Data Jan 2018 – Jun 2020.
3 Ward, E. (n.d.). Heat Stroke in Dogs. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/heat-stroke-in-dogs#:~:text=Generally%20speaking%2C%20if%20a%20pet’s,referred%20to%20as%20heat%20stroke.