A terrier pants in the sun on the grass

With record heat stretching from Ontario to the Atlantic provinces, a University of Guelph expert is warning pet owners to be cautious when exercising their pets outdoors.

Prof. Shane Bateman, an emergency and critical care specialist in the Health Sciences Centre at U of G’s Ontario Veterinary College, said while most pet owners know not to leave their pets inside locked cars on hot days, there are other ways they could be putting their pets at risk of heat-related injury.

Even a short jog on a hot day can push pets into the danger zone, Bateman said, with dogs particularly vulnerable to heat illnesses.

“The problem with dogs is that their inherent desire to please their owner can sometimes supersede their own self-preservation,” he said.

Prof. Shane Bateman
Prof. Shane Bateman

Cats have unique vascular adaptations that allow them to tolerate heat because they can shift their blood supply around their bodies. But dogs can develop severe heat-related injury if they can’t rest and get cool.

Many furred mammals need to pant to cool themselves because they lack sweat glands. A dog’s lungs are highly vascularized, so moving air in and out of their lungs rapidly through panting allows them to cool their blood. But if the air around them is not cool enough, the work of panting further contributes to overheating.

Dogs with short snouts, such as pugs and bulldogs, are at highest risk since they can’t pull air in deeply enough, Bateman said. Large, hairy dogs can also overheat quickly.

He advises watching for how much effort the dog is exerting to get cool. They might be panting louder than usual, they might have an expression of panic or anxiety on their face, with their eyes becoming wider. They might also start to drool with a long, tongue, and their gums might be bright red.

Bateman, who works in OVC’s Department of Clinical Studies, is available to discuss what pet owners should do to cool their pets quickly, as well as how to determine when it’s time to seek emergency care.


Prof. Shane Bateman