Summertime is a time for fun and frolicking but it’s also fraught with danger for our pets. When the temperature rises, we need to take extra caution to make sure our pets are okay in the heat.
Here are some key tips to help keep your pet cool and safe.
Keep them inside
It might seem obvious, but pets get just as hot as you do outside. When the temperatures are high, carefully limit your dog’s time outside and be sure to bring him inside to hang out where the AC can keep him cool. Overheating can happen quickly in dogs and has many detrimental effects on health, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Don’t leave your pet alone in the car on a warm day
Despite the warnings, every year, pets die after their owners leave them in a parked car that overheats. Within just a few minutes, a car can get extremely shot, stifling, and deadly. Dr. Ernie Ward did an experiment on a warm summer’s day in which he sat in a parked car with the windows cracked. He wanted to see just how hot it would get. Within 30 minutes it was 117 degrees inside the car. “Never, ever leave your dog in a parked car on a warm day,” he pleads at the end of the video he made to document his experience. That goes for any pet, by the way!
Be vigilant about vet care
When it starts getting warm outside, take your dog or cat to the vet for a full check-up. The check-up should include a heartworm test and a flea and tick protection plan. These are year-round issues but in the summer months, with much more outdoor time, it’s especially important to monitor them.
Avoid walking your dog in the heat
Aim for mornings and evenings when letting your dog outside, cautions Dr. Marty Becker in his article, “Beat the Heat Tips for Your Dog.” Sometimes, though, it’s just hot all day long and Dr. Becker says, “Even in the coolest part of the day, watch for signs of trouble: Glassy eyes and frantic panting indicate a dog who needs help. Get to a veterinarian immediately if you see these symptoms!”
Watch for hot surfaces
Do you know how much it hurts your bare feet to walk on scorching concrete? It can hurt your dogs’ feet as well, so avoid walking them in the middle of the day or stick to grassy areas.
Keep your home cool for your pets
When the temperature outside gets hot, it can be harder to keep the indoors cool. Some people turn their air conditioning off when they leave for the day. If you have a pet at home, this could put him in danger. A Vetstreet.com article, “Summer Hazards and Your Dog,” advises: “Instead of turning off the air conditioner, try leaving it on a conservative but comfortable setting (perhaps 76°F) while you are out.” The article recommends you make sure your pet has water and, “consider closing curtains to reduce the heating effects of sunlight through the windows.”
Give your pets access to shade and plenty of water
Pets can get dehydrated or get heatstroke quickly so any pet outside needs to have plenty of water and access to shade.
Know which dogs are less tolerant of heat
Dr. Becker reminds us that some dog breeds are less tolerant of heat than others. “Remember that older, obese or short-nosed dogs (Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Boxers, Shih Tzu’s and French Bulldogs) are less tolerant of heat.” Also, older dogs, puppies, and dogs with health issues can also be more susceptible to hot weather. Of course, you should keep a close eye on your dog in the heat, no matter what his breed, age, or state of health.
Use the power of pupsicles and catsicles
The good news? Dogs and cats often enjoy cool treats the same ways humans do, and there are tons of dog-friendly and cat-friendly popsicles that are quick and easy to make. When your dog or cat looks warm, give him a cool treat (or two).
Put down the clippers
Regardless of the season, a pet’s fur exists to regulate body temperature, so grabbing the clippers and giving your pet a serious haircut during the summer can actually lead to greater discomfort. It’s OK to give a long-haired pet a slight summer trim to help keep his coat more manageable, however, it’s best to take him to a professional groomer.
Keep an eye out for algae
Some dogs love swimming or playing in the water during hot summer days, but it’s best to limit this to the sprinkler in your backyard or larger bodies of water with significant surface movement. Stagnant water in some lakes or ponds can develop a layer of algae on top, certain types of which are toxic and in some cases fatal for pets.
Prepare for fireworks
Fireworks are popular at many different types of celebrations over the summer months. While you may have the urge to include your pet in the festivities, don’t. More pets are lost around the 4th of July holiday than any other time of the year. During the 4th of July and any other celebration using fireworks, always be sure to keep your pets safely indoors. If a fireworks celebration has occurred close to your home, be sure to do a yard check the next morning to make sure your pet isn’t injured by any leftover debris or unfamiliar objects.
Protect from sun exposure
You might not think of skin cancer when you think of pets, but it does occur. Luckily, your pet’s fur provides some protection, but it doesn’t take care of everything. When taking your dog outdoors, make sure you protect areas that are hairless or non-pigmented with a sunscreen made specifically for dogs. These areas often include the bridge of the nose, tips of the ears, belly, and groin area. Cats generally aren’t taken outdoors in the same way dogs are, however they can still be vulnerable even indoors. If your cat enjoys spending a lot of time sleeping on a sunny windowsill, consider adding a shade or film to the window to help filter out UV rays.
Avoid the beach
Never take an animal to the beach unless you can provide a shaded spot and plenty of fresh water for her to drink. Rinse her off after she has been in salt water.
Keep a current license and identification tag on your dog or cat and consider tattooing or microchipping as a means of permanent identification.
Watch out for chemicals
Avoid walking your dog in areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals, as poisonings increase during the summer when gardens, lawns, and trees are sprayed. These chemicals can sicken or kill an animal. Call your veterinarian or The ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA/NAPCC) if you suspect your animal has been poisoned.
Be alert for coolant leaking from your vehicle. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste of coolant and ingesting just a small amount can cause an animal’s death. Consider using animal-friendly products that use propylene glycol rather than those containing ethylene glycol.
Get a checkup
Take your companion animal to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer checkup, including a test for heartworm if your dog isn’t on year-round preventative medication. Have the doctor recommend a safe, effective flea and tick control program.
Our pets rely on us to protect them and keep them comfortable and safe year-round! Remember, if you’re hot, your pets are definitely hot.
Keeping Your Dog Cool and Safe during a Heat Wave
Check out this video for helpful tips:
How to Keep Dogs Safe While Exercising in the Heat
One of the most important considerations is the condition of the dog. Most cases of heat exhaustion do not occur in the hottest part of the summer; they occur in May and June because pet owners take out dogs that have poor conditioning and then they overdo it. So if your dog is not in shape, he is going to be much more prone to heat exhaustion. Seventy degrees seems so lovely for us, but for an out-of-shape dog, it may be too hot for much exercise.
Intuition suggests that a dog’s fur might also make a difference. It does, but not in the way many think. Fur in sheep, poodles, and some other mammals can actually act as an insulator from the heat. So shaving your dog may help with summer shedding, but it might not make your pet less vulnerable to heat exhaustion.
Here is another interesting fact: The dog’s metabolic rate is important. A big, muscular dog has a higher metabolic rate and is, therefore, more prone to exhaustion.
What are the warning signs for a dog who is overheating and vulnerable to heatstroke? If your dog quits on you — just lies down and does not want to go — respect that he is telling you he needs rest. Heavy panting and nausea or throwing up are also early warning signs. The color of your dog’s gums should be pink to red. Bright “cherry red” or purple gums or stumbling around (almost like a drunk pooch) suggest heat exhaustion and a trip to the vet is in order.
Your dog loves his exercise, so do it, but do it wisely!