Pets in the heat: How to keep your animals cool in summer

Marion Fernandez
 

Getting out and about in the hot weather is one of the best advantages of summer. We can find lots of ways to stay cool, from swimming in a lake to heading over to the closest water slide. Unfortunately, our furry friends do not have all of the same options that we do to beat the heat.

The animals in our lives need to be able to stay cool in hot weather as well. They cannot tell us when they are feeling hot and uncomfortable, so you need to be proactive to keep them safe.

1. Don’t put them somewhere hot

It get’s pretty hot in there even with the windows open

Of course, this sounds obvious, but you need to look at the whole picture. Leaving your pet inside a car in the summer time is a bad idea. Do not bring her on errands with you, even if you think she will only be in there for a minute. Even on a day that is not overly hot, the car will be at least 16% hotter than the temperature outside within 10 minutes.

According to the Humane Society, on an 85 degree day, the car interior can easily get up to 102 degrees in a few minutes and upwards of 120 degrees within a half hour. That level of heat exposure can cause irreversible organ damage or death from heatstroke. Even with the windows cracked, there will not be enough cool air to keep your animal safe.

2. Keep them indoors during the hottest part of the day

If you enjoy taking your dog with you for runs or hikes, you are naturally going to want to do that during the nicest days in the year. You can still do that, but stick with the early morning hours before the heat has taken hold. Exercising your pooch during the hottest parts of the day will increase the risk of dehydration, burning the pads of her feet, and heat exhaustion. Keep her on the grass or dirt whenever possible. If you must go out when it’s hot, stick to the shade and carry plenty of water for both you and your pet. Even if your dog loves many walks a day, resist the urge to drag her outside needlessly.

3. Limit exposure of outdoor pets

Dog chilling in hot weather

If your dogs or cats stay outdoors throughout the year, you should have a place that they can go for relief from the weather. Tree shade, decks, and tarps are all excellent types of shade you can offer your four-legged companions. While a dog house may seem like a great shield from the elements, they are not typically well-ventilated and can be extremely hot, making them a poor shelter from the heat. Likewise, keep plenty of water available for their safety and comfort. If you have in-home air conditioning, consider making a space for them indoors in the hot weather, allowing them to cool down and stay healthy.

4. Keep water fresh and available

Speaking of water, you should have a bowl that not only can accommodate the amount needed in between refills, but consider having a bowl that cannot be easily dumped. Dogs especially can jump when they get wound up or excited, perhaps jumping on top of their water dishes and causing them to be out of the water. Self-filling bowls can be an excellent option as they are hard to tip and will automatically refill when the water gets low. Check the water at least twice a day and change it daily.

5. Hose them down

Playtime fun to cool off on a hot day

While animals do not respond to fans the same way that humans do, you can still cool them down physically. Using a pool or a hose, you can provide some relief by cooling down their fur and skin. You can even get the same effect from rubbing a wet towel over them. The result is an evaporative cooling that will gradually bring their temperature down. If you do this, make sure the water isn’t ice cold as that can be shocking if they are already overheated.

Another solution to this is to have a kiddie pool available for the pets to either run through, lie in, or take a drink from. Pools do carry the risk of drowning, so be sure that the water is appropriate for the size of the animal and keep an eye on any small children who may have access to it.

6. Take them to the beauty salon

Okay, maybe not a real beauty salon, but rather a pet groomer. Many animals can benefit from getting a trim, shave, or brush through in the summer, but what could help greatly depends on the breed of the dog or cat. Some animals have light skin that is concealed by the fur but will become susceptible to sunburns if the fur is removed. Other animals have coats that will protect them from the elements, making a regular brushing more beneficial than cutting the fur itself. Talk to a professional groomer and see what kinds of solutions are out there for your animal.

7. When in doubt, call the vet

Kitty getting checked by the vet

If your pet is not acting normally or seems ill in any way, the best thing you can possibly do is call your veterinarian. Heatstroke is nothing to mess with in either humans or animals and if your pet is suffering, immediate treatment could be imperative to your animal’s survival. Signs of heatstroke include:

  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Rapid panting
  • Discolored gums (either red or very pale)
  • Sticky saliva or lack of saliva
  • Sudden vomiting or diarrhea

If you see any behavior listed above, it is best to have your pet checked to prevent life-threatening injury.

For most of us, our pets are a part of our family and deserve to be treated with the same respect that we devote to one another. Take your pet’s health and comfort into consideration in all weathers, including frigid temperatures, to help keep your loving animal around for a long time.

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