Tips for Keeping Pets Safe in Warm Weather

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Expert Veterinary Staff at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital Offer Simple Tips for Keeping Pets Safe this Summer

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With the high temperatures of summer already in the forecast, the expert medical staff at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital encourages pet owners to pay special attention to their furry family members.

“Folks in the Pacific Northwest worship the sun and take full advantage of these early, warm summer days,” says Dr. MeiMei Welker, a staff veterinarian at DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital. “Sometimes we don’t realize how warm weather may affect our pets until it’s too late.”

Keeping pets cool in the heat is crucial to preventing heatstroke and exhaustion. Understanding limitations and taking extra precautions in warm weather may be the difference between life and death for pets.

“Just like older humans, older dogs can be especially susceptible to the higher temperatures,” says Dr. Welker. “Also, certain breeds are not as good at adapting to high heat. Short-nose dog breeds, like pugs or bulldogs, may be at a higher risk. Now is the time to become familiar with the warning signs before your animal gets into a dangerous situation.”

Here are some helpful reminders for keeping pets safe in warm weather.

Never, ever leave a pet in the car. It may seem like a car trip will cool them off, but it might do more harm than good. The sun can raise the temperature in the car to 120 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. Even with the windows cracked, a short time left in the car can be deadly for pets.

Just like humans, pets need extra water. Whether indoors or outside, both humans and pets need access to lots of fresh water on warm days. Check pet water bowls several times a day to be sure they are full. If going outside, be sure to bring plenty of water for everyone.

Keep dogs leashed and keep an eye on them. If a dog is extra thirsty, she may be interested in water sources that are dangerous. Seemingly safe puddles of water may include toxic substances like oils, antifreeze or other dangerous chemicals. Standing water could also harbor Giardia, a common protozoan parasite which causes severe intestinal distress and dehydration in dogs.

Pets need sunscreen and can get sunburned, just like humans – especially if she has light colored hair, fur and skin. Animal sunburns can cause some of the same problems people with sunburns experience: pain, peeling, and even skin cancer. Keep pets out of the sun during the peak hours of the day from 10:00AM to 4:00PM. When taking a pet outside, apply pet-safe sunblock on unprotected areas like the tips of the ears, the skin around the lips, and the tip of the nose. Not all sunblock is safe for pets. A general rule of thumb: If it is safe for babies, it is safe for pets.

Watch the exercise. Don’t overdo it in the heat. Keep walks to a gentle pace, and make them short. If a dog is panting a lot or seems exhausted, it is time to stop. Warm weather exercise followed by a trip home in a hot car could have deadly repercussions.

Inside is better than outside. Even in the shade, pets can get sick quickly on hot days. Keep pets indoors as much as possible. If they are outside, make sure they have plenty of water and shade, and check on them regularly.

Watch for “the signs.” Heatstroke can be fatal if not treated quickly. When heatstroke is suspected, contact a local emergency animal hospital like DoveLewis immediately. In the meantime, try to lower the pet’s body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of his or her body (like the tips and back of ears, foot pads, belly and inner thigh areas). Often the pet will respond and appear normal after only a few minutes of cooling. Extreme changes in body temperature are dangerous, and it is imperative to seek the care of a veterinarian right away.

Recognize the Signs of Heatstroke:
Anxious expressions
Refusal to obey commands
Warm, dry skin
High fever
Rapid heartbeat

More about DoveLewis:
DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, established in 1973 and based in Portland, Ore., is the only nonprofit, 24-hour emergency and intensive care unit in the region. DoveLewis provides donor-funded programs to the community, including one of the United States’ largest volunteer-based animal blood banks, a nationally recognized pet loss support program, 24-hour stabilizing care for lost, stray and wild animals and financial assistance for qualifying low-income families and abused animals. Celebrating 40 years of service to the community, DoveLewis has treated over 500,000 animals; that is experience you can trust! For more information, please visit

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Kate Goudschaal
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