Time to get out with the family (and likely a family pet or two) and enjoy recreational activities. The purpose of this article is to serve as a reminder of summer dangers for pets.

Heat stroke

Most people are aware that leaving a pet in a locked care on a 100-degree day would be dangerous. However, it is the seemingly mild days of spring (and fall) that pose great danger, too. Driving around, parking and leaving your pet in the car for "just a minute" can be deadly. Cars heat up fast — even with the windows cracked.

Leave the air conditioner on if you must leave your pet in the car.

Signs of heat stroke include: body temperatures of 104 to 110 degrees, excessive panting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, staggering, stupor, seizures, bloody diarrhea or vomiting, coma and death. Brachycephalic breeds (the short-nosed breeds, such as bulldogs and pugs), large heavy-coated breeds and those dogs with heart or respiratory problems are most at risk for heat stroke.

If you suspect heat stroke in your pet, seek veterinary attention immediately! Use cool water on towels, not ice water, to cool your pet. Do not aid cooling below 103 degrees — some animals can actually get hypothermic (too cold). Offer ice cubes for the animal to lick on until you can reach your veterinarian.

Just because your animal is cooled and "appears" OK, do not assume everything is fine. Internal organs such as liver, kidneys, brain, etc., are definitely affected by the body temperature elevation, and blood tests and veterinary examination are needed to assess this.


Jogging is also dangerous this time of year. Your dog jogs every day with you and is in excellent shape — why alter the routine? As the weather warms, humans alter the type and amount of clothing worn, and we sweat more. Dogs are still jogging in their winter coat and can only cool themselves by panting and a small amount of sweating through the foot pads. Many dogs, especially the "athletes" will keep running, no matter what, to stay up with their owner. Change the routine to early morning or late evening to prevent heat stroke.


Consider your pets' housing. If they are kept outdoors, do they have shade and fresh water access at all times? I have treated one case of heat stroke in a dog that did indeed have shade and water while tethered under a deck but had gotten the chain stuck around a stake in the middle of the yard — no water or shade for hours. It is a good idea to hose down your dog before work, at lunch, or whenever you can to provide extra cooling, or even an area under a bush they can "bed" down in.

Water safety

Not all dogs are excellent swimmers. Especially if Fido has underlying health problems, such as heart disease or obesity to contend with. Consider protecting your pet just as your human family — with a life preserver. If your pet is knocked off of the boat (perhaps getting injured in the process), or is tired/cold form choppy water or sudden storm, a life jacket could be what saves your pet's life.


Antifreeze is actually a year-round hazard. With the warmer temperatures of summer, cars overheat and may leak antifreeze. This is the bright green liquid found oozing from the car with the engine fan on. Also, people change their antifreeze and may spill or leave unused antifreeze out where pets can access it. Antifreeze tastes sweet and is inviting to pets (and children). It is also extremely toxic in very small amounts. Call your veterinarian immediately if any ingestion is suspected. A safe alternative to ethylene glycol antifreeze is available. It is called propylene glycol, and while it does cost a small amount more than regular antifreeze, it is worth the piece of mind.

Lastly, if your pet fears fireworks make sure they don't run off and are safely kenneled or in the house this July 4th.

Dr. Darren Woodson has practiced veterinary medicine in the Farmington area for more than 28 years and has a passion for educating pet owners. If you have a question you would like him to address, email dwoodson@valleyvetpet.com. Please understand Dr. Woodson will choose the questions that are most relevant to our readers.