We all love spending the long, sunny days of summer outdoors with our furry companions, but hot weather can prove dangerous. Dogs are not good at keeping themselves cool, so providing protection for our pets in hot weather is critical.
Heatstroke is a serious problem for pets. Heatstroke occurs when the body’s temperature exceeds a healthy range, and it can be fatal. Seek emergency veterinary care if you observe any of these signs:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Glassy eyes
- Abnormal gum and tongue color
We hear about tragedies when babies are left in vehicles on hot days, but heatstroke, brain damage, and even death is far more common with pets left in hot cars. Even a few minutes in a car on a hot day (even with the windows cracked) can be deadly. Research shows that the interior temperature can rise 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, even on cooler days. On a 90-degree day, the inside temperature can reach a sweltering 125 degrees in a half hour.
Pets can’t perspire like humans to cool themselves off via evaporation, so they must pant to cool themselves. If the air is too hot, then panting has little cooling effect, and the dog quickly overheats.
It’s also a bad idea to let your dog ride in an open pickup truck in hot weather, since truck beds are often dark colors, which get very hot.
The Long, Hot Summer: Cooling Tips
- Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun
- Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot or humid outdoors.
- If your dogs stay outside during the day, make sure they don’t tip over their water bowl.
- Even dogs that are used to being outside can suffer during hot weather. If a severe heat advisory is issued, it is a good idea to bring them indoors. If your dog cannot be brought indoors, a ventilated or air-conditioned garage or other structure may provide enough shelter in some cases.
- Kiddie pools are a nice way to give dogs a cool dip.
- Pets that spend most of the summer inside are generally protected, but when temperatures outside get hot, inside temperatures can, too.
- Some pet owners shut off fans and air conditioning when they leave for the day to reduce energy costs. Instead of turning off the A/C, try just leaving it on a conservative but comfortable setting (perhaps mid-70s).
- Close curtains to reduce sunlight’s heating effects.
- Make sure pets have plenty of fresh water in a shaded spot, since sun coming through a window can heat a bowl of water, and most pets won’t drink hot water, no matter how thirsty they are.
- Don’t walk, run, or hike with a dog during the hottest parts of the day; do so in the morning or evening when its cooler. Take frequent breaks, and bring water along.
- Avoid hot surfaces, like asphalt, that can burn your pet’s paws. Before taking your dog for a walk, check the ground for hotness with one of your own hands or bare feet. If you can’t keep your hand (or foot) on the ground for more than three seconds, it’s probably too hot to walk your furry friend.
Hair and Heat
Grooming dogs can help keep them comfortable as the heat rises, but never shave your dog—the layers of a dog’s coat protect the dog from overheating and sunburn. Dogs with bald patches, short coats, close cuts, or Nordic breeds, who are prone to auto-immune–related sun diseases, may need protection from the sun. However, be sure that any sunscreen you use is labeled specifically for pets. White cats can get sunburned if they lie in the sun too long, even if they stay indoors. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat.
Remember that younger, older, overweight, or thick-coated pets, and those with health issues are more likely to become dehydrated or ill from heat exposure. Short-nosed animals (such as Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, Boxers, Shih Tzu’s, French Bulldogs, and Persian cats) are less tolerant of heat and are especially at risk of overheating. You should keep a close eye on your pet when it’s hot, no matter what breed, age, or state of health.
A little empathy goes a long way to protect our pets in summer. If it’s too hot for us to stay comfortable in the car, in the yard, or on a walk, it’s even hotter for our furry friends. Our pets rely on us to protect them and keep them comfortable and safe, all year round!