Calgary veterinarian explains how to keep pets cool in the dog days of summer

Alberta is locked in a heat dome, and its dangers aren't limited to humans. Over the weekend, a dog died from heat exhaustion during a hike at Grotto Mountain in Kananaskis.

Look out for signs of heat exhaustion in cats and dogs

A dog splashes around in the Fraser River in B.C. on June 26, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Alberta is locked in a heat dome for days to come, and its dangers aren't limited to humans. Over the weekend, a dog died from heat exhaustion during a hike at Grotto Mountain in Kananaskis.

Calgary veterinarian Dr. Joe Waldman spoke with The Homestretch on Wednesday to explain ways to keep our four-legged friends safe and cool.

"It's really all about preparing for the time of day that you're going to be outside and for the areas that you're planning to be," said Waldman, owner of the Downtown Animal Clinic.

In days that are reaching 30 C, he advises taking your dog for a walk early in the morning — 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. Plan a route where there's lots of shade or access to water for opportunities to cool off.

"The pavement itself is pretty brutally hot right now, and I think we would all sort of realize that if we didn't have shoes on," said Waldman. "So, yeah, we've got to be careful with them."

Dogs regulate temperature through their tongues and their feet, so there are some simple ways to help your pooch beat the heat. Getting them to stand in a couple inches of cold water will cool them down quickly.

You can also wipe them down with a wet towel and put a fan on them, or even spray mist over them. That goes for cats, as well, who might not want to stand in water.

"That helps them just like it helps us," said Waldman.

Signs of heat exhaustion

Certain breeds are more prone to overheating than others. Dogs with pushed-in noses, like Boston terriers, pugs and bulldogs, are extra sensitive to heat — so owners should be mindful.

Kittens and puppies are also more susceptible.

"They don't have as effective thermo-regulation as an adult animal would. So they're going to be a little bit more at risk," said Waldman.

With that in mind, he recommends taking your puppy outside for no more than 10 minutes at a time in the upcoming days.

Warning signs that your pet is overheating include gums that look more red than usual and urine that is darker.

In cats, panting is typically a sign that something is seriously wrong. Dogs, of course, often pant when it's hot out. But if they seem to be tiring easily or they are panting to a degree where they just can't seem to get comfortable, those are early signs that something is going wrong.

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Luckily, for dogs and cats staying indoors, the risk of heat exhaustion is low.

"You've got to make sure they have access to water and make sure you're not asking them to do anything strenuous," said Waldman. "But just being inside, they're not going to get injured. They're just going to be unhappy."

With files from The Homestretch


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