Reviewed and updated for accuracy on June 16, 2020 by Jennifer Coates, DVM
As the weather kicks it up a notch, the natural tendency can be to get everyone up and out of the house—pets included.
While spending more time outdoors can be a great source of exercise and fun for all involved, remember that hot weather is not always easy on our pets. To help your pet get the most out of their summer adventures, you’ll want to be prepared with how to keep your pet safe in the summer heat.
Here are 7 vet-approved tips for keeping your pet cool and healthy during the summer.
Pets are smarter than we give them credit for, and prefer staying at home and lying on cool surfaces (like your tiled kitchen floor) in the heat of the day, says Douglas Aspros, DVM and President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Save your outdoor time with your pet for early in the morning or in the evening once the sun has set.
By taking your daily walk, run, or visit to the park either before or after the sun is at its hottest, your pet will be less likely to overheat and the ground will be cooler on the pads of their paws.
If you do find yourself out in midday with your pet, make sure you keep them out of direct sunlight or give them a shady place to get out of the sun.
Remember, your pets don’t wear shoes, so the pads of their paws can be burned walking across particularly hot sand, asphalt, or other surfaces, Dr. Aspros says. If it’s extremely warm, keep them indoors as much as possible.
“One big mistake for owners is leaving a pet in a closed car on a sunny warm day when the temperature in your car can rapidly climb to over 140 degrees Fahrenheit,” Dr. Aspros says. Keeping the windows cracked open will do little to help. “It’s solar heating that’s the culprit, so you can face serious risks even on a comfortable day.”
Panting takes more exertion than sweating and can bring your pet to respiratory distress faster than you think, Dr. Aspros adds. So as much as your pet may love riding in the car or spending time with you, avoid any potential issues by keeping them safe and cool at home.
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so you’ll want to make plenty of fresh, clean water available to them.
Panting is effective in allowing animals to cool down because it helps evaporate fluids from the respiratory tract, Dr. Aspros says. You can help replace these fluids and prevent dehydration by leaving out water or water alternatives throughout the day—particularly when your pet has spent time outside in the heat.
Water alternatives—electrolyte solutions designed for pets or even Pedialyte—can help when pets are very dehydrated since they replenish electrolytes and taste great. Always keep plain water out too so your pet can pick what they need most in the moment.
Be especially careful with breeds like these in hot weather and keep plenty of water on hand, Dr. Aspros says.
You should also be careful with pets that are elderly, overweight, and/or have heart or lung disease. It’s best for them to be kept in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible in hotter temperatures.
You should always make sure that you have a cool, shady spot with clean water for your pet when hanging outdoors during the summer.
“Being covered by fur works well in the winter, but it can make it difficult to manage the heat of a summer day,” says Aspros. “Both dogs and cats dissipate heat by panting [and] as they get overheated, they pant more quickly trying to maintain a safe internal temperature.” However, if a dog or cat gets too hot, they risk developing heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
There are two major reasons pets get overheated, Dr. Aspros says:
Pets with compromised upper airways, like Bulldogs, or an acquired condition like laryngeal paralysis have more difficulty removing heat from their bodies through panting, Dr. Aspros says. These animals often find that, in attempting to cool themselves, they generate more heat through exertion and can fall victim to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
Increased heart rate
Increased respiratory rate
More severe symptoms that can be associated with heat stroke include seizures, bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and a body temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat stroke can be fatal, so if you think your dog is overheating, move your pet to a cool location and call your veterinarian right away.
Finally, many pet owners incorrectly think that shaving their animals in the heat will help cool them down.
In reality, the your pet’s coat helps insulate them against high environmental temperatures and protects them from sunburn. Trimming long hair is perfectly okay, but leave at least an inch or so of fur behind.
Pets with thick, double coats generally shed their inner layer of insulating fur for the summer. Brushing your cat or dog more often to help remove loose fur can help prevent overheating.