Heat Stroke and Ticks Top List of Springtime Pet Hazards

Veterinarians at Angell Animal Medical Center Share Safety Tips as Weather Warms

BOSTON, March 30, 2017 – With almost 70,000 animals treated each year, the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center is one of the busiest 24-7 emergency and specialty veterinary hospitals in the world—and springtime in New England is one of the busiest periods.

“We’re approaching the season marked by profound changes in the environment and our pets’ behavior,” said Dr. Virginia Sinnott of Angell’s Emergency & Critical Care Unit.  “Pets, especially dogs, go from spending the majority of their time inside to suddenly engaging in far more strenuous outdoor activity without sufficient time to acclimate to such a change.”

Dr. Sinnott urges caution to ensure the transition from the lazy winter slumber to springtime excess goes smoothly for pets—and their owners.  Topping the list of veterinarians’ concerns: heat.

“Most people think the intense late summer heat waves are the most dangerous period for pets—but in reality we see far more cases of heat stroke in the early spring,” said Dr. Sinnott.  “By August our pets are well acclimated to the heat—it’s this transition period that is most dangerous.”

Unseasonably Warm Temperatures Demand Caution
New Englanders may be tempted to get outside for vigorous walks or runs when the temperatures soar from near freezing to 50 degrees in less than a week.  Dog owners unwittingly put their dogs at risk at this time of year by encouraging them to run, chase toys or just be with them in the sun.

Pet owners should start slowly, increasing the duration and length of walks by no more than ten percent over the course of two to three weeks and allow plenty of time for rest.

“The key signs of heat stress include heavy panting and a much slower pace,” added Dr. Sinnott, who cautions pet owners to never ignore these signs and to allow dogs to rest if they suspect heat exhaustion.

Additional heat safety recommendations include:

  • Scheduling a check-up. A springtime check-up will reveal any heart or respiratory issues that should be addressed before pets become more active in the summer months
  • Ensure ready access to shade, water and rest—parks with leafy trees and soft ground along with streams or ponds (in which dogs can cool off) offer wonderful recreational opportunities with plenty of opportunities to cool off
  • Exercise dogs in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are lower
  • Be especially cautious with dogs who have short noses, such as Pugs and Bulldogs, as these dogs are particularly vulnerable to overheating

Beware Hot Cars!

While temperatures are still relatively cool it is never too early to warn against the dangers of hot cars. Pets should never be left unattended in cars, which can heat up to 110 degrees in 10 minutes on an 80-degree day even with the windows slightly open.  It is safer to leave our pets at home.

Be Flea and Tick Aware

Angell veterinarians warned two years ago that the arrival of the Lone Star Tick—which travels three times as quickly as the Deer tick and attacks in swarms—had arrived in New England from the Southwest, bringing new tick-borne diseases along with it.

“We treated about 600 dogs for suspected or confirmed tick-borne illness in the fall and winter of 2015, and nearly 650 during the same period in 2016,” she said.  “There’s no doubt this trend will continue and the numbers will keep rising, so it’s imperative we become much more tick-aware as we move into spring.”

Dr. Sinnott’s warnings come as the Centers for Disease Control continue to cite the American Northeast—including Massachusetts—as having among the highest concentrations of Lyme Disease incidents in the country.

Prevention: The Best Defense

While there is no way to completely eliminate the chance that pets will come into contact with ticks, there are measures every pet owner can take to reduce the likelihood of illness.  Angell’s prevention protocol centers on the following recommendations:

  • Use an over-the-counter flea and tick preventative all year long such as Frontline or Advantix for dogs—and keep cats exclusively indoors (which is safer for them generally, and all but eliminates their risk of tick-borne illness)
  • Walk dogs on hard surfaces or well-worn paths. “Dogs love going into the woods and that’s a stimulating exercise that we should not deny to them—but keeping them out of the bushes, where most ticks reside—will significantly reduce their exposure,” said Dr. Sinnott
  • Keep the edges of your property free of debris such as piles of leaves and brush, which offer safe shelter to ticks of all varieties
  • Learn how to remove embedded ticks. “This can be tricky and the key is to ensure no part of the tick remains under the skin,” said Dr. Sinnott.  Her instructions are as follows:
  1. Use tweezers to grasp the tick very close to the skin and, with one steady motion, pull the tick’s body away from the skin. Try not to crush the tick as this can lead to infection.
  2. After removing the tick, clean your pet’s skin with soap and warm water and dispose of the tick by placing it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet
  • Have your pet tested annually for tick-borne diseases—and have urine protein levels evaluated if your dog is or has been positive for Lyme disease. “This is an added cost for pet owners, but nipping these diseases in the bud is not only much healthier for pets but less expensive than treating disease in an advanced stage,” said Dr. Sinnott.
  • Know the primary signs of most tick-borne illnesses: flu-like symptoms, lameness, decreased appetite and generally seeming unwell.  If any of these symptoms are present, call your veterinarian immediately.

For more information about keeping pets safe from ticks click here.  For more information about Angell Animal Medical Center’s Emergency and Critical Care Services click here.


Angell Animal Medical Center cares for more than 50,000 animals every year and is one of the most acclaimed veterinary practices in the country.  Angell’s76 doctors, including 36 board-certified specialists, work as a team to ensure high quality general wellness, emergency and specialty care.  With 36 board-certified specialists and medical capabilities that include nuclear medicine and high speed 3D imaging, Angell is committed to providing a broad range of specialized expertise and experience, and delivering this care with one-on-one compassion that animals and their owners deserve.  Angell at Nashoba provides low cost basic veterinary care for low income pet owners while Angell’s Boston and Waltham locations are  open for emergencies 24 hours of every day of the year, and offer night and weekend appointments with our specialty services.


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