College of Veterinary Medicine

2024 Heat Safety Week


This week is South Carolina Heat Safety Week. As temperatures climb and Spring turns into Summer, there are some important reminders to keep pets and livestock safe. The College of Veterinary Medicine’s Dean, Steven Marks, knows how dangerous the heat can be for animals.

“My most important advice for pet parents during the summer is, if it’s hot for you, it’s hot for them,” said Marks. “Never leave pets outside, unattended for long periods, and make sure they have plenty of water and shelter out of direct sun.”

Pavement and sand can get incredibly hot, and people can’t feel the heat through their shoes. Marks advises that before you take your pet on a walk, touch the pavement to make sure it’s not hot. Dog booties, which are popular, could help protect paws, but they may not be the right solution for all situations.

“Dogs stay cool through heat escaping through their paw pads since they can’t sweat,” said Marks. “Booties, if worn for long periods, could prevent burns but may keep your pet from cooling off properly. The best advice is to exercise and go for walks in the morning or after sunset, during the coolest parts of the day.”

Backyard chickens and goats are growing in popularity. As it gets warmer, it’s important to make sure they can maintain a normal body temperature for health and performance.

“Water is the driver for eating, grazing and consuming minerals,” said Patty Scharko, CVM Faculty member. “Placing a water trough, bucket or waterer in partial shade will keep the water cooler. Make sure the area is not too shaded or the animals will congregate to escape the heat which can lead to a muddy rest area.”

Owners should also be mindful that horses are more prone to heat stress than humans. According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners, just 17 minutes of gentle exercise in hot weather can increase their body temperature to dangerous levels.

For animals large and small, be aware of the signs of heat stress. In horses, it is a temperature of over 102 degrees Fahrenheit, breathing heavily, a high heart rate, weakness or lethargy.

“In general, riding should be exercised with caution with a heat index (formula combining air temperature and humidity) over 150 and completely avoided if over 180,” said Nicki Wise, CVM Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. “If you do exercise your horse on a hot and humid day, it is important to cool them down efficiently by quickly removing tack, getting them into a shaded area, hosing them off with cool water and offering access to lots of drinking water. Remember, horses do not pant like dogs when they get hot. Like humans, they sweat to dissipate heat, so if your horse is not sweating despite extreme heat, this could be a sign of a medical disorder.”

The signs of heat stress in dogs are similar.

“If a dog collapses, has difficulty breathing, is vomiting, has diarrhea, develops brick red, blue, purple tongue or gums after being in heat, seek medical advice immediately,” said Marks.

If you have specific concerns about your pet or livestock and how they are able to tolerate the heat, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian.

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