Kitchener-Waterloo

Your dog may be having a hard time with the heat too, says the OVC

An emergency and critical care specialist at the University of Guelph is warning pet owners to be cautious when exercising their pets outdoors, as the region continues to experience sweltering temperatures.

Dogs are particularly vulnerable to heat illnesses, says veterinarian Shane Bateman

Dogs are particularly vulnerable to heat illness. (Timothy Clary/AFP/Getty)

Pet owners need to be cautious when exercising their pets outdoors right now, as the area continues to experience sweltering temperatures.

Emergency and critical care veterinarian Shane Bateman warns even a short jog on a hot day can push pets into the danger zone.

"We know how important exercise is for us as well as our pets … but it needs to be timed during the very cooler portions of the day; so early in the morning or very late in the evening when the pavement has cooled off and the outside temperatures are less," Bateman told CBC News.

"And certainly we want to modify those exercise activities to be things that are much more modest in nature and not causing any sort of heavy exertion to occur."

Dogs want to please their owners

Bateman, who is an associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, said dogs are particularly vulnerable to heat illnesses because they tend to be people-pleasers and go along with what they sense will make their owners happy.

So much so, he said, it can sometimes override the animal's instincts for self-preservation.

"We know our best friends and companions often rely on us to make good decisions for them, and ... sometimes interacting with them in heat, they will avoid recognizing some of the signs of distress they're experiencing and will continue to exercise or to play with us," Bateman explained.

"So it's really important for us to be very clear that they rely on us to make good decisions or good choices and use good judgment whenever we're taking them outside during weather like this."

Dogs are at risk of developing severe heat-related injuries if they can't rest and get cool, Bateman said.

A dog's lungs are highly vascularized, so panting allows them to move air in and out of their lungs rapidly, cooling their blood. But if the air around them is not cool enough, the work of panting further contributes to overheating.

Dogs with short snouts, such as pugs and bulldogs, are at highest risk since they can't pull air in deeply enough, Bateman said. Large, hairy dogs can also overheat quickly.

Bateman advises watching for how much effort the dog is exerting to get cool. They might be panting louder than usual, they might have an expression of panic or anxiety on their face, with their eyes becoming wider. They might also start to drool with a long tongue, and their gums might be bright red.

Meanwhile, cats can better tolerate heat because they have unique vascular adaptations that allow them to shift their blood supply around their bodies.

Never leave pets inside a locked car

People are also being reminded that they should never leave people or pets inside a parked vehicle in warm weather. 

"There is no safe time to leave a pet in our parked car in this type of heat. It is absolutely a no no," Bateman said, adding that it doesn't matter if there is shade available or if windows are left open. 

"Parked cars are just no place for pets to be on any day," he said.

Prof. Shane Bateman, an emergency and critical care specialist in the Health Sciences Centre at U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College, is warning pet owners to be cautious when exercising their pets outdoors. (University of Guelph)

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