As sweat drips down your face, you long for the cool days of autumn. Your pet is likely thinking the same, as they swelter under their fur coat. Follow our eight tips to protect your furry pal from the heat, and also apply a few to your own cooling methods, to keep you and your pet cool, comfortable, and safe this summer.
#1: Avoid taking your pet outdoors during the hottest part of the day
We admit it can be tough to wake up extra early to take your dog for a jog before the day heats up, but it’s essential for your pet’s safety. Exercising in the heat of the day is a horrible idea, and the quickest way to cause a heatstroke episode. Instead, opt for early morning or late evening exercise and play sessions, to avoid the worst of the heat.
#2: Provide plenty of shade for your pet when outdoors
When outside in the blistering sunlight, you’ve likely hopped from shady spot to shady spot to avoid scorching your bare feet, or suffering the wrath of the sun’s direct rays. While your pet has fur to protect their skin from a ferocious sunburn, intense sun can be as uncomfortable for them as for you. Ensure your pet can get out of direct sunlight when outdoors, to help prevent heatstroke.
#3: Ensure your pet has proper ventilation during hot weather
Your pet may have plenty of shade, but that sun-blocking shield doesn’t do much good if they are trapped in a stifling room or building. For example, you may confine your pet to the garage while your mopped floor is drying, to prevent a fresh decoration of muddy pawprints. Although the garage has a roof, and your pet is not in direct sunlight, it likely lacks proper ventilation, and can turn into a steamy sauna with no airflow. A resting area under a leafy tree or outdoor canopy is a much better option.
#4: Always keep a full bowl of fresh, cool water near your pet during the summer
There’s no worse feeling than a parched throat with no water available to quench your thirst. Ensure your furry pal never has to suffer this feeling by offering plenty of cool, fresh water at all times, whether you’re inside or out. Active pets quickly become dehydrated outdoors, and adequate hydration can help ward off heat exhaustion.
#5: Protect your pet’s paws from scorching-hot pavement
While doggy booties work well at protecting your pet’s paw pads from burning, they can trap moisture in humid conditions, or can be fitted too tightly and restrict circulation. Instead, switch your evening walk to a morning stroll, or avoid pavement altogether, to protect your pup’s paws. Hike through a shady forest or park, or stick to walking on grass or plain dirt to ensure the ground won’t scorch your pooch’s paws. A great way to test the ground surface temperature is to place your hand on it—if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet.
#6: Know your pet’s heatstroke risk factors
Any pet can experience heatstroke, but some cats and dogs are at a higher risk. If your pet has any of the following characteristics, take special precautions when heading outdoors in the summer:
- A flat-faced breed, such as a bulldog, boxer, Boston terrier, Persian, or shih tzu, etc.
- Pediatric or geriatric status
- Thick, double-coated fur
- Heart or respiratory conditions, including congestive heart failure, laryngeal paralysis, and collapsing trachea
- Previous history of heatstroke
If your best friend is an elderly, overweight bulldog in congestive heart failure, you may need to stick your pooch in front of a fan and the TV all summer long, to ensure their safety. Regardless of your pet’s characteristics, take proper precautions when outside to avoid overheating in summer’s scorching heat.
#7: Understand your pet’s limits during hot weather
Your pet likely won’t understand they are becoming too hot, and need to pause their game of fetch, or stop herding the neighborhood squirrels. Advocate for your best friend by encouraging them to rest and relax in the heat of the summer, rather than engaging in their usual vigorous activities. At the first hint of overheating, call it quits, take your pet into the air-conditioned indoors, allow ample time to cool off, and then resume an indoor game.
#8: Learn the signs of heatstroke in your pet
While some panting is normal—especially if your pooch has been darting after a ball, or taking a brisk jog around the block—rapid, heavy panting is the first sign of impending heatstroke. Other signs you’ll commonly see in an overheated pet may include:
- Excessive, thick drool
- Brick-red gum color
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Loss of balance and incoordination
- Staggering or collapse
- Loss of consciousness
If your furry pal is beginning to pant more heavily than normal, they may be experiencing heat exhaustion, the precursor to heatstroke. Heavy panting is your pet’s way of attempting to dissipate body heat, so cool off your fluffy friend by heading indoors to chill out.
If your pet has given any indication they are overheating, get them indoors and cooled down. Then, contact our Somerset Animal Hospital team for further advice, and to schedule a post-heatstroke appointment, to evaluate potential hidden organ damage.