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Keeping Your Pet Safe in the Summer Heat

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Summer has always been a time to get out and play. And this one is no different, even if it feels like many other things are. One thing that’s for sure — it’s hot out there. Summer 2020 is on track to become one of the five hottest on record. 

So if you’re heading out with your pets, make sure they’re keeping their cool. 

Play it smart in the heat

Check the weather for the day ahead of time. You might want to think about morning or evening excursions rather than the height of the afternoon.

Choose a grassy spot with plenty of shade for your dog or cat to retreat to when they get too much of the sun. Why grassy? Most pets are shorter than their owners, so they’re closer to the ground. Many man-made surfaces like asphalt, sidewalks or road surfacing hold and reflect the heat upward — heating the air around them. 

Take plenty of water and share it with your pet often. You wouldn’t want them overheating. 

Signs of overheating

Excessive panting can be a sign of overheating — and one you might not notice right away if your pet is already prone to panting. Watch for drooling, an increased breathing rate and mild weakness or instability on their feet. 

In extreme cases, their gums can change color — bluish purple, bright red or pale — from lack of oxygen. Also, a temperature of 104 or above requires veterinary attention. 

What to do if you suspect your dog or cat is overheated

Before going to the vet, take these steps:

  1. Take your pet’s temperature so you can accurately report it to the vet when you get there
  2. Douse your pet in room temperature water, not cold or hot
  3. Fan the animal 
  4. Provide drinking water, but do not force your pet to drink
  5. Stop cooling once your pet’s temperature is 103
  6. Call ahead to let your vet know you’re coming

How hot is too hot for dogs and cats?

It depends. Pets have built-in body temperature regulation. Believe it or not, their fur actually helps keep them cool by wicking away sweat and protecting them from the sun. But long-haired or dark-colored breeds can be more susceptible to heat. 

Breeds with flat faces like bulldogs, pugs, pekinese, Boston terriers and Persian cats don’t pant as well as others so they have a harder time releasing body heat. You should particularly watch these pets in the heat and consider keeping them indoors in the AC until it cools off a bit.

So the best rule of thumb is — if it’s too hot for you in jeans and a t-shirt, it’s too hot for your pet.

Necessary outings

Dogs, and some cats,  still have to go outside to do their … business. Until it gets comfortable enough for you to sit a few minutes in the sun, don’t let your animals out unsupervised. 

And, keep up your outdoor exercise routine. Especially for overweight pets, the daily walk is still important. Consider limiting these activities to the cooler hours of the day. Walking your dog (or cat, if you do that sort of thing) isn’t great for either of you at high noon.

We often get questions about booties for pets who take their walks in the concrete jungle. Yes. They can keep their pads from burning on the blacktop. No. Many don’t allow heat to escape. For animals who sweat primarily from the bottoms of their feet (out pets), this is a major consideration. 

And, again, your pet is lower to the ground where it can be hotter. Booties are great, but grass, turf or dirt is better. 

If you play it safe this summer it can still be fun out there. Just remember, it’s not called “sizzling” for nothing and keep yourself and your paw-footed friends comfortable and cool.