VCA Wrightsville Beach Animal Hospital

10 Tips to Help Pets Beat the Summer Heat

By M. Eads
Published: April 10, 2013

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1. Keep your emergency information with you at all times. When an emergency situation happens, it's not the time to start frantically searching for your veterinarian's phone number, or the address of the nearest emergency clinic. Keep important numbers and medical information for your pets up to date and in your wallet or by the phone at all times.

2. Get to know your pet so that you can recognize an emergency. Learn to take your pet's pulse, count resting breaths and pants when exercising, and ask one of our doctors how to take your pet's temperature. Knowing what is normal for your pet will help you recognize an emergency soon enough to take action to minimize danger.

3. Never leave an animal in a parked car. Even when it's only 80 degrees outside, the inside of a car can heat up to more than 120 degrees in just minutes. And, leaving the windows partially rolled down won't do the trick. Even if you plan to be in the store for "just a minute" your pet is at risk of a heat stroke.

4. Keep animals out of direct sunlight during the heat of the day. Roughly between 10 am to 6 pm. Dogs can only regulate their body temperature by panting and by a tiny amount of evaporation of sweat through the pads of their feet. When overheated, heatstroke can occur and lead to brain damage or death. A good rule of thumb is, if you're uncomfortable, your pet is uncomfortable.

5. Know the signs of heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs includes excessive panting, drooling, rapid pulse and fever. Immediately run cool (not ice cold) water over the animal and wrap with cool towels before transporting your pet to your veterinarian. Panting in cats is not normal, and if it lasts more than a few minutes, can be a sign of distress. See number 9, "kitty quirks" for more information on cats and heat stroke.

6. Prevent sunburn. Animals can get sunburned too, especially short-haired dogs, or dogs and cats with pink skin and white hair. Limit your pet's exposure when the sun is unusually strong, and ask one of our doctors about an appropriate brand of sun block.

7. Always make sure animals have access to fresh water and shade. Try spraying down favorite shaded areas a few times during the day to create an outdoor "evaporative cooling system." When outdoors filling a kiddie pool with water in the shade can make for great fun. Just make sure to change the water often to make sure you don't inadvertently raise a new batch of mosquitoes.

8. Avoid strenuous exercise with your dog on extremely hot days. Do not exercise during intense, mid-day heat. Our doctors recommend limiting activity to the early morning or late evening, about an hour after the sun has gone down. Be sure to bring along water, make frequent stops to allow your dog to rest and hydrate, and keep activity to 20 minutes or less. Remember that your dogs are eager to please and will keep going until you tell them to stop.

9. Test the heat radiating from the sidewalk or street for yourself. These hard surfaces absorb and hold heat. If it's too hot for you to stand on in your bare feet, it will be too hot for the sensitive pads of your pet's feet as well.

10. Understand kitty quirks. Cats exhibit many of the same symptoms as dogs when stressed by heat. Early signs of heat stroke can be panting that lasts more than a few minutes, anxiety and pacing, increased heartbeat, respiratory distress or hyperventilation, lethargy, and increased body temperature. And, oddly enough, cats affected by heat may actually drink less when they should be drinking more. If any of these symptoms occur bring your pet in as soon as possible.


Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

Find a VCA Specialty Care Animal Hospital near you:


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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours please Animal Emergency & Trauma Hospital of Wilmington at  (910) 791-7387.