Summer pet safety tips

Summer can be the most fun time of year for people — and pets. Enjoying a beautiful summer day together is great, but the heat can also be dangerous or even deadly for pets. Luckily, with just a few precautions, you can keep pets safe in the summer heat.

“Heat stroke can occur when an animal’s temperature rises to a critical level,” says Dr. Mike Dix, medical director for Best Friends Animal Society. “Normal body temperatures for dogs and cats range from 100 to 102.5 degrees. When a dog’s temperature rises to 108 degrees, or a cat’s to 106 degrees, they can suffer irreparable organ damage and even die.”

According to Dr. Mike, signs of heat stroke in dogs and other pets include heavy panting that does not resolve as the pet rests, increasing distress, a tongue color that is dark red to almost purple, weakness or collapse, hyper-salivation, vomiting and labored breathing.

If you suspect a dog or cat is suffering from heat stroke, move him to a cooler environment immediately and apply cool water to the abdomen, ears and foot pads. Don’t pour ice water over the whole animal, submerge him in a tub of cold water or cover him in a cold, wet blanket. Once he is stable, get him to a vet as quickly as possible, even if he seems to be cooling down and his temperature seems normal. Things may be happening on the inside that are not obvious from the outside.

A variety of situations — such as leaving a dog in a hot car, going for a midday walk with your dog, or simply leaving a pet in the yard with no shade — can contribute to an animal overheating. Best Friends recommends taking a few simple precautions to keep dogs and cats healthy and comfortable as the mercury rises. Here are some tips:

  • Keep pets indoors during the day. It may sound obvious, but it’s hottest outside when the sun is up. Quick walks and bathroom breaks are OK, but try to keep your pets in the shade.

  • If pets do spend time outside during the day, ensure that they have access to shade at all hours of the day. Dogs on tethers are especially vulnerable because they could become tangled in the tether, out of reach of shade or water. Grass and greenery help keep the yard cooler, too.

  • Provide pets with fresh, cool water at all times. During the heat of summer, water should be dumped and refilled often. Most dogs won’t drink hot water no matter how thirsty they are.

  • Exercise dogs during the cooler morning or evening hours, not in the intense afternoon heat. Dogs who are older or overweight, have a thick coat or have a pushed-in nose (such as bulldogs, Boston terriers and pugs) are especially at risk of overheating. Bring water for both you and your pet, or a collapsible bowl if there’s a water source on your route.

  • Be aware of the temperature of the sidewalk, asphalt, sand or even packed dirt, since the heat can cause burns to your pet’s paw pads if they get too hot.

  • Consult a veterinarian about whether your pet needs a pet-approved sunscreen on exposed areas. Dogs with bald patches or minimal coats may need sunscreen, as well as Nordic breeds of dogs, who are prone to auto-immune-related sun diseases.

  • Never leave your pet in a parked car when the outside temperature is above 70 degrees. Not even with the windows partway down, not even in the shade, not even for a quick errand. Dogs and cats can’t sweat like humans, so they pant to lower their body temperature. If they’re inside a car, recycling very hot air, panting gives no relief, and heat stroke can happen quickly.

A little empathy goes a long way in protecting our pets from extreme weather. If it’s too hot for us to stay comfortable in the car, in the yard, or on a walk, it’s even hotter for our furry friends.

Learn more about keeping pets happy and healthy in the heat.

Watch this video demonstrate how quickly a car can heat up on a 95 degree day.