Safe This Summer: Protecting your pets from heat stroke and the symptoms to watch for

Posted at 7:03 AM, Jun 23, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The next time you want to take your dog to the beach for a cool down, think twice.

Not only because dogs may not be allowed on the beach during a certain time period, but in the middle of the day, there's no escaping the heat.

"I do tend to see a lot of patients coming in for heat stroke from being at the beach," said Dr. Julie Nelson, an Emergency Veterinarian at Bay Beach Veterinary Hospital in Virginia Beach. "There really isn't much shade and, I'm going to be honest, an umbrella or a tent does not do it because, although you're covering them from the sun, that sand is still burning hot and all that heat is rising."

Nelson tells News 3 heat stroke can show up in several ways, with symptoms like excessive panting and drooling, lethargy and blood on the gums or bloody diarrhea.

It's a potentially deadly illness, she says, and cases of it pick up in the summer months from pets being out in the humid, hot Mid-Atlantic weather.

Certain dog breeds, in particular, have problems staying cool and the amount of fur plays less of a role than you'd think.

"It's more of the short-snout breeds, what we call brachycephalic breeds, so English bulldogs, shih tzus, boxers, French bulldogs because they don't breathe as easily so they can overheat a lot faster and it only can take maybe a couple minutes," Nelson said.

But for all pets, especially on hot days, she suggests letting them outside or walking them in the morning or evening when it's cooler. If they have to be let outside in the afternoon, make it quick.

And always check the surface of the ground to keep paws from burning.

"I try to recommend when you take [pets] for walks, especially at hot points in the day, maybe take them to grass-only areas and try to avoid black cement, concrete, all those hot surfaces because it'll be less risk of them burning off their paw pads," said Nelson.

If your dog shows signs of being overheated, she says rinsing them in cool (not ice cold) water should help, but when heat stroke is a possibility it's always best to contact your veterinarian immediately.