Keeping Pets Safe in the Summer Heat

The warmer temperatures and high humidity can pose a threat to your pets. It gets particularly scary when power outages occur so here are some suggestions on how to keep your pets safe during the summer heat and the warning signs to look for which indicate your pet may be at risk.

  • Never ever leave your pets in a locked car – not even if it is running with the air conditioning on. Even on a mild day, a car in the sun can heat up to above 120 degrees in less than twenty minutes.
  • Limit exercise on hot days to early morning and evening hours. Pets don’t always know when to stop playing (sound familiar? ). Higher temperatures and humidity can quickly lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Exercise your dog during the coolest parts of the day, look for shade, and always make sure cool water is available during play time.
  • Avoid walking your pet on asphalt. This surface can easily burn the paws of your pet, and because your pet is lower to the ground than you (ideally), they feel the heat coming off the asphalt more intensely. Walk your pet on grass.
  • Avoid dog houses and outdoor pet shelters. These are like ovens in the summer with limited circulating air. While a pet may seek shelter from the sun in a dog-house, it only makes the situation worse. (Don’t put your spouse out there either.)
  • What keeps you cool does not necessarily work for your pet. Humans sweat through their skin and breezes help cool the skin. Pets sweat through their paws and cool themselves through panting. A fan blowing will not cool a pet the way it cools a human.
  • Help your pet stay cool with plenty of “pupsicles”. (I’ll get in trouble if I name specific brands.) They can be purchased in stores or made at home with ease. You can also soak a mat, wrap, or vest in cool water which will help keep your pet cool.
  • Stay alert for the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Of note, pets with shorter snouts like boxers, pugs, and shih tzus have a harder time breathing in high heat. Stay on the look out for excessive panting, glazed eyes, excessive thirst, rapid heart beat, thick saliva, vomiting, sudden lethargy, lack of balance or coordination, and a deep red or purple tongue. This are all signs that your pet is at risk for heat stroke.
  • If you think your pet is in danger, move them to an air-conditioned space and cover them with a cool wet towel about their chest, head, and neck. Let them drink cool water and lick ice cubes. Call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Summer can be a time of great fun for you and your pets. Enjoy the time together and be watchful for risks and behaviors that could be harmful. I like to think this way – if you’re warm, there’s a good chance your pet is hot – so act accordingly. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me directly or contact your local veterinarian.

 – Carolyn