Our surveys at RVtravel.com reveal that half our readers travel with a pet, most often a dog. Now that summer is upon us, it’s time to pay special attention to hot weather and how it can hurt, even kill, our furry best friends.
Increased outdoor temperature is a contributing factor to heatstroke, but it’s an avoidable condition. An animal develops heatstroke when its body temperature rises to a dangerous point (often it is over 106 degrees Fahrenheit) that will damage cell health and normal functions.
Heatstroke often occurs during the first warm spell of spring, when a pet is not accustomed to activity in warmer temperatures. Dogs at greatest risk are those that are older, overweight and brachycephalic (with a short nose). Also at risk are pets left unattended in a parked vehicle, which can reach dangerously high temperatures very quickly on a warm day.
RVers should never leave their dog or other pets alone during hot weather without a highly dependable air conditioning system. Camping where the RV is shaded from the afternoon sun is also a good preventive measure.
“The best way to avoid heatstroke is to slowly reintroduce activity to your pet, while ensuring it has breaks for drinking plenty of water or cooling off in a pool or safe body of water,” said Dr. Karl Jandrey, an assistant clinical professor in the Small Animal Emergency and Intensive Care Service at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at U.C. Davis.
He also advises that if you suspect your pet is overheated — with signs of weakness, increased respiratory effort or rate, excessive “panting” (or not panting at all), or even vomiting — stop the activity. Cool your pet by soaking its coat down to the skin and then see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Drive with the air conditioning on, or if your pet is secured and away from the windows, have the windows down to encourage evaporative cooling. Always know the location of the closest emergency clinic, even when traveling.
All of the advice above applies to cats, as well. Whatever your pet, keep them cool.