I live in South Florida. Perhaps the general public in such a warm climate has better awareness about dangers of heat and thus have better ways to combat heat. I’ve yet to treat a patient with heat stroke at my general practice. I’m sure pets in south Florida get heat stroke, but my clients seem pretty smart about keeping their pets cool. Back in the 1990s I was an ER vet in Portland, Oregon. We used to see heat stroke patients not uncommonly on the first few sunny days of each year.
My theory is this: Humans and pets would huddle indoors all the rainy, chilly NW winter and then seize the day and go overboard when the good weather came.
So how do you avoid dehydration and combat the heat? First let’s go over some common sense suggestions for all. Then we’ll discuss why diabetic pets are prone to dehydration.
Combat Heat In General…
Of course you want to provide PLENTY OF WATER. Don’t just set one pan of water in your pet’s pen or patio. Your pet could easily step on the bowl and tip it over. Provide more than one bowl of water! It’s best to have at least one pail with a handle and hang it from the pen or gate with a caribeaner or latch. I often put ice cubes in the outdoor pet water. One trick is to put a small pail in the freezer the night before a warm day and as the day heats up the ice melts to provide cold water. (Of course you need to have several sources of water available as this will thaw gradually and your pet will want water earlier in the day.) I use this “frozen pails of water” trick when hurricanes threaten south Florida as cold water is so much more refreshing if we lose electricity for a few days! If I do lose electricity, I also keep them in the fridge and freezer to help keep the refrigerated medicines at my vet clinic from going bad until we get electricity again. The fridge and freezer act as coolers or ice chests much like in olden days.
Exercise does a body good, but it can also blister your sweetie’s foot pads and predispose to heat stroke in hot weather. Exercise in the early morning or late in the evening when it isn’t quite so hot. If you are used to long walks or runs, consider a shorter loop. This way if you or your pet tire earlier than usual due to the added heat, you aren’t then carrying Fluffy home. Avoid hot surfaces like pavement or sand to avoid burning the tootsies. One good test is to take your shoes and socks off and walk a few feet barefoot. If it is too warm for your feet it is likely too warm for Fluffy’s feet. If you do opt for a longer walk, be sure to pack some water. If it is a really hot day, give your sweetie a break from exercise until it cools off. There is no sense risking heat stroke!
Combat Heat If Your Sweetie is a Diabetic Pet…
If your pet is diabetic, the risk of dehydration is even greater. The kidney threshold for glucose is somewhere between 180 and 300 mg/dL for dogs and cats. It varies from one pet to another, with cats usually having a higher threshold than dogs. When the blood glucose goes higher than the kidney glucose threshold, it makes it extremely difficult for the kidneys to pull fluid back. Kidneys are very active organs. They excrete then reabsorb fluid. What fluid is left after kidneys filter the blood is called urine. Remember “osmosis” from high school chemistry class? When the blood glucose exceeds the kidney threshold for sugar, a diabetic will continue to pee out dilute urine even if the patient is dehydrated. It’s a matter of osmosis.
Do your best to regulate the blood glucose! Doesn’t this just make sense? And yet, I know lots of folks who disregard doctor’s orders on a daily basis. Heck, I know a few human diabetics that continue to eat processed foods and desserts even though they know the consequences. One of my clients at my vet clinic has a diabetic cat and is diabetic himself. He told me that he rarely checks his own blood glucose. Obviously I gave him a dirty look as I sincerely adore this man and hope he lives a quality long life! Luckily he is good about doing curves on his diabetic cat.
If your pet is diabetic, be extra careful to avoid dehydration. Heat stroke is real, and the above measures for non-diabetic pets are especially important for diabetic pets. On hot days, have water available throughout your home.
Enjoy your summer!
Have a question or comment? Then post below! I always enjoy hearing from my readers!
NOTE: Consult your veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your pets special health needs.