Temperatures are skyrocketing, forcing people and pets alike to find creative ways to beat the heat. As tempting as it is to retreat indoors to a cool sanctuary until fall, it’s not feasible for pet owners. Active dogs need to let off steam outdoors, as they do in frigid winter temperatures, but summer has a whole host of unique dangers for pets who don’t know when to quit. As a pet owner, you are responsible for ensuring your dog doesn’t overdo it in the hot temperatures and high humidity. Here are a few ideas to help your pet stay cool this summer.
1: Change up your exercise regimen
Instead of hitting the pavement after work to run with your pooch, consider early morning strolls in the shade. Blacktop traps the sun’s heat and can remain at a blistering temperature for hours after the sun goes down. Although your dog’s paws are protected by thick pads, the pads are sensitive to extreme temperatures. Stick with a morning walk along pavement while it’s coolest, or change the view and find a hiking trail through a nearby park. Test the surface before taking your dog for a jaunt—if you can’t leave your hand on the ground for five seconds, it’s too hot for your dog.
2: Shun the sun—you and your pet, too
Imagine lounging in the sun in a black turtleneck and dark pants, unable to swap them out for shorts and a tank top. Your furry friend feels the same way when frolicking with you in the sunshine in her fur coat, so take pity on her, especially if her dark coat is more prone to sun absorption. Light-colored pets should also avoid direct sunlight, since sensitive skin around the toes, ears, and nose can develop squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer caused by excessive sunlight or ultraviolet light exposure. Minimize direct sunlight exposure by following these tips:
- Apply pet-safe sunscreen.
- Avoid venturing outdoors when the sun is at its highest.
- Invest in a canopy or yard umbrellas if your yard doesn’t have shady trees.
3: Take a dip
Cats may prefer to sit on the sidelines rather than swim, but many dogs will leap right in. Ensure your pet knows how to swim, and even if she does, take extra safety precautions and buy her a doggy life vest. Before heading into the water, train her to wear the vest, which will help keep her afloat without clinging to you. If your pet is not a fan of deep water, fill a kiddie pool with a few inches of cool water for her to splash in and enjoy.
4: Visit a pet grooming salon
Proper grooming helps keep your pet cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Thick, double-coated dogs or pets with fine, silky hair mat easily, which traps heat near the skin under wads of fur. Brush your pet routinely to avoid mats, remove dead hair and skin cells, and disperse protective skin oils. A healthy hair coat is one of your pet’s top defenses against extreme weather.
5: Keep the refreshments coming for people and pets
Cater to your pet’s needs with plentiful fresh, cool water and icy refreshments. Many pets—even cats—enjoy frosty treats of pet-friendly ice cream or simple ice cubes. If your pet is less than impressed with plain frozen water, freeze a mixture of water and tuna juice or chicken broth for a special treat.
6: Know when your pet should call it quits
We love our pets’ endless zest for life. But, when the day heats up, that boundless exuberance can be deadly for a dog who doesn’t know her limits. Whether you have a Labrador who will fetch a ball all day, or a cattle dog who must herd every person into place at your party, some pets won’t cool down unless you call it quits. If you notice excessive panting, thick saliva, a constantly drained water dish, or bright red gums, remove your pet from the fun and let her cool down indoors.
7: Brush up on first-aid tips for heat-exhausted pets
Heat exhaustion can quickly ramp up to heatstroke if you don’t cool your pet immediately. If you suspect your pet is overheating, take these steps to lower her temperature:
- Bring her indoors into an air-conditioned, well-ventilated room.
- Run cool water over her, ensuring her head stays above water and that the temperature isn’t too cold.
- Do not wrap your pet in wet towels—this only traps heat.
- Monitor her temperature.
- Offer fresh, cool water, but not too much at once.
- Point a fan at your pet’s face.
After a heat-exhaustion episode, your pet will need a veterinary exam to check for internal organ damage. Excessive temperatures can cause heart, liver, kidney, and brain problems.
Keep an eye out for other summertime dangers besides heat injuries—barbecues, parties, fireworks, camping, and bonfires are perfect opportunities for your pet to get into mischief. If your furry friend runs into trouble this summer, call us for help.