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How to protect your pet during a heat wave

Make sure to take appropriate steps to care for your pets during hot weather.

High temperatures in Florida bring the risk of heat illness for not just people, but also pets. Heat waves can be dangerous for animals since pet owners may not know exactly what signs to look out for, or how to treat their pets during an emergency.

“Generally, what you’re going to see is more panting,” Dr. Lawrence Garcia, medical director of the Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service (VETS) team at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, said. “Some people report suddenly the animal isn’t eating as much. We can also see excessive drooling, or stumbling around,” he added.

Garcia said if your animal is showing signs of heat stress, you will want to cool them down without introducing another extreme temperature. This means staying away from using ice, and instead, hosing the animal off with water or providing a shady spot for them to rest. Garcia says if you see purple-red gums, or bloodshot eyes on a dog, as well as fainting, to get the animal to emergency care right away. And unlike dogs, your cat should not be panting. “If you see a cat panting, that’s a great concern,” Garcia said.

If you are bringing your dog along with you on a summer outing and may not have access to the indoors, Garcia said there are steps you can take to protect your animal. “Take water with you and take regular breaks, every 15 or 20 minutes,” he said. Garcia said what for humans is a comfortable temperature, maybe too hot for a dog or cat. So, keep the air on in the car and make sure to keep the vehicle cool. And never leave an animal in the car, even for a short period of time.

“It doesn’t take much for some animals to overheat,” Garcia warned. Make sure to know the signs of heat illness and how to respond before your pet experiences an emergency.