How to keep your pets safe in the summer heat

Summer weather can be fun for both people and pets — but because of the heat, you need to help make it safe, too.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep your furry friends comfortable in hot weather.
An animal’s needs are different

Remember, we humans can take off our “winter coats” and put on t-shirts and shorts as the days grow hotter. However, in early summer, our pets are often still wearing the remnants of their winter wardrobes — and likely have fur year-round.

And while people have the capacity to perspire and cool themselves during activity or exercise, our furred friends are limited in how they can cool themselves, relying on panting and limited sweating through the bottoms of their feet.

Inside during the hot day

How to keep your pets safe in the summer heatKeep pets indoors during the day. It may sound obvious, but it’s hottest outside when the sun is up. Quick walks and bathroom breaks are okay, but try to keep your pet in the shade.

If pets do spend time outside during the day, ensure that they have access to shade at all hours of the day. Best Friends Animal Society notes that dogs on tethers are especially vulnerable because they could become tangled out of reach of shade or water. Grass and greenery help keep the yard cooler, too.

Temperatures in your yard can increase to high levels in just a few hours, and heat stroke can become a serious issue, so at home outdoors, ensure that your pets have access to shade at all times.

Also be sure to provide pets with fresh, cool water at all times. During the heat of summer, water should be dumped and refilled often, because most dogs won’t drink hot water no matter how thirsty they are.

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Time your exercise

Regular exercise, surprisingly, can be dangerous for pets at this time of year, says the The American Humane Association.

Even if your pets are active, get exercise every day and are in excellent physical shape, you may want to scale back their activities or change your exercise routine to the cooler hours of the morning or evening — not in the intense afternoon heat. That will allow them to acclimate to the sometimes sudden increases in daily temperatures that occur during those spring-into-summer days.

Dogs who are older or overweight, have a thick coat or a pushed-in nose — like bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs — are especially at risk of overheating. Bring water for both you and your pet, or a collapsible bowl if there’s a water source on your route.

While your pets are acclimating to the new season, develop an exercise plan that will get them safely through to those hotter summer months.

Watch those feet

Be aware of the temperature of the sidewalk, asphalt, sand, or even packed dirt, as these can cause burns to your pet’s paw pads if they are too hot.

Consult a veterinarian about whether your pet needs a pet-approved sunscreen on exposed areas. Dogs with bald patches or minimal coats may need sunscreen, as well as dogs like Nordic breeds who are prone to auto-immune related sun diseases.

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Dogs & cats around town

A pet in a closed vehicle is not cool. Nearly everyone knows that leaving a pet in a closed vehicle on a 100-degree day is dangerous.

However, it is the pleasant days of spring and early summer that can actually be the most perilous for pets left in vehicles.

Many people forget that pets are affected by heat much more quickly than humans are, and that leaving a pet in a car for “just a minute” can have a deadly outcome. Remember that cars heat up fast – even with the windows cracked!

Signs of heat stroke

“Heat stroke can occur when an animal’s temperature rises to a critical level,” said Dr Michael Dix, medical director for Best Friends Animal Society. “Normal body temperatures for dogs and cats range from 100 to 102.5 degrees. When a dog’s temperature rises to 108 degrees, or a cat’s to 106 degrees, they can suffer irreparable organ damage and even die.”

According to Dr Dix, signs of heat stroke include heavy panting that does not resolve as the pet rests, increasing distress, a tongue color that is dark red to almost purple, weakness or collapse, hyper-salivation, vomiting and labored breathing.

Heat stroke requires immediate veterinary attention because it can be deadly.

Signs of heat stroke in an animal include:

  • excessive panting
  • extra salivation
  • dark or bright red tongue and gums
  • lethargy, stumbling
  • seizures
  • bloody diarrhea or vomiting
  • when the dog or cat becomes unconscious/unresponsive

If you suspect your dog or cat may be suffering from heat stroke, you should seek veterinary treatment for your pet immediately. You can provide some immediate treatment using cool (but not icy) water to lower your pet’s temperature by submerging the pet in a tub of water, wetting him with a hose or sponging him down.

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If your pet showed signs of heat stroke but has been cooled and now appears fine, do not assume that all is well. Internal organs, such as the liver, kidneys and the brain, are all affected by extreme body temperature elevation. Once he is stable, he should be taken to a vet as quickly as possible, even if he seems to be cooling down and his temperature seems normal. Things may be happening on the inside that are not obvious from the outside, so it is best to have a veterinarian examine your pet to assess potential health complications and ensure that other risks are not overlooked.

Enjoy summer days with your furred friends — just know that a little empathy goes a long way in protecting pets from extreme weather. If it’s too hot for people to stay comfortable in the car, in the yard, or on a walk, it’s even hotter for our furry friends.

How fast a car can heat up (video)

Best Friends Animal Society conducted an experiment on a 95 degree day, and discovered that the temperature inside a car–with windows down a few inches–increased from 69 to 140 degrees in 10 minutes. Never leave your pet in a parked car when the outside temperature is above 70 degrees. Even with the windows partway down, even in the shade, even for a quick errand.

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