Fun in the Sun Can be Harmful to Pets

May 18th, 2014 | By Marjie No Comments

RecerationWith temperatures warming and summer just around the corner, it’s time to prepare your pet for our Georgia heat.

“As temperatures rise, we see many cases of heat-related illness because people don’t realize it’s as hot as it is and they leave their pets in closed cars,” explains Benjamin Brainard, VMD, DACVA, DACVECC, a small animal emergency and critical care veterinarian at the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH).  “We see a fair number of cases every year, and it’s important for pet owners to know that closed cars can heat up inside very quickly — even on mild or cloudy days, although the heat is worse during the summer months.”

All animals, whether small pets or large farm animals, can avoid heat-related illnesses with the right environmental conditions.

“It’s pretty much the same for all animals,” states Kira Epstein, DVM, DACVS, DACVECC, a large animal emergency veterinarian at the UGA VTH.  “Making sure they have shade outdoors or a well-ventilated indoor space, and clean, cool water are the most important things that owners can provide.”

Small animals such as dogs and cats do not necessarily need shorter hair to stay cool in summer months, according to Brainard.  Since small animals do not sweat through their skin the way humans do, the hair on many pets acts as a protective layer for avoiding sunburn and heat-related illnesses.  Keeping their coat brushed and void of mats is important to keeping air circulating throughout their hair, which has its own cooling effect.

Signs indicating an animal may be suffering a heat-related illness include lethargy or collapse, increased respiratory rate, and vomiting or diarrhea.  Brainard and Epstein suggest that if a heat-related illness is suspected, pour cool water on the animal and provide air circulation using a fan, if available.

The good news is that with timely and aggressive treatment, most heat-related illnesses can be successfully treated, although more severe cases may require hospitalization and intensive care.

The University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) treats nearly 20,000 animals annually.  24-hour Emergency Services are offered at the VTH with no referrals required.  Please visit for more information.

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