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Keeping Your Pets Cool and Healthy: Summer Tips for Dogs and Cats

June 10, 2024 Dr Katy Miller DVM, CVFT, CVNAN, CPFFCP, CPCQI, PAS

As the temperature rises, it's not just humans who feel the heat; our furry friends do, too. In the summer, the sun shines brighter, and the temperatures rise; ensuring our dogs and cats stay cool and healthy during the scorching summer months is crucial. Here are some essential tips to help keep our beloved pets safe and comfortable during the summer season.

Tip #1: Just like humans, pets need plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially when it's hot or humid outside. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in, and it can happen more quickly in hot weather due to increased panting to regulate body temperature. Always ensure that pets have access to clean, fresh water throughout the day. Consider placing multiple water bowls in different areas of the home and yard to encourage drinking.

Tip #2: When your pets are outdoors, ensure they have access to shaded areas to escape the sun's direct rays. Shade helps pets regulate their body temperature by allowing them to escape direct sunlight and reduce their exposure to heat; it provides a cooler environment where they can rest and cool down, preventing dehydration and overheating. Whether it's a tree, a canopy, or a shaded porch, having a cool spot to retreat is essential for preventing heatstroke and exhaustion.

Tip #3: Never leave a pet in a hot car; this cannot be emphasized enough – never leave your pets unattended in a parked car, even for a short period. Cars can quickly become ovens in the summer heat, leading to heatstroke and death within minutes. For instance, when it’s only 80 degrees outside, the inside of a car can heat up to more than 100 degrees in just 10 minutes.1 Leaving the windows partially rolled down will not help. If you need to run errands, leave your pets at home where they're safe and comfortable.

Tip #4: While exercise is vital for your pets' overall health, it's essential to be mindful of the heat during summer. Avoid strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day, opting for early morning or late evening walks when temperatures are cooler. Think of cooling exercises like swimming or playing in a sprinkler when available. Remember that hot pavement and sand can burn your pets' paw pads, so stick to grassy areas when possible, or consider protecting their paws with boots.

Tip #5: Regular grooming helps prevent matting and keeps your pets' coats in good condition, but during the summer, it's also essential for temperature regulation. Brushing removes loose fur and helps improve air circulation, while trimming long hair can help keep pets cooler. Shaving a pet's coat too short is not advisable, as it can expose them to sunburn and interfere with their ability to keep cool air near the body using their undercoat, causing them to become too hot.

Tip #6: Summer brings an increase in flea, tick, and mosquito activity, so protecting your pets from these parasites is crucial. Use vet-approved flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives, and consider using pet-safe mosquito repellents to reduce the risk of diseases like heartworm and West Nile virus.

Tip #7: Know the signs of heatstroke in pets, which include excessive panting, drooling, rapid heartbeat, lethargy, vomiting, and collapse. If you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke, immediately move them to a cool area, offer water, and seek veterinary attention. Heat stroke is a serious condition that, if not treated promptly and aggressively, can lead to brain damage or even death. Keep in mind that brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs and cats, like Pugs and Persian cats, are at higher risk for heat stroke since they are not as effective at panting; it is best to keep them in a cool, air-conditioned room as much as possible.

Summer should be a time of fun and relaxation for both you and your pets. By following these simple tips, you can ensure that your furry companions stay safe, healthy, and happy throughout the year's hottest months. Remember, a little extra care goes a long way in keeping your pets cool and comfortable during the summer heat.

References

  1. “Inside Car Temperature Calculator | Good Calculators.” Good Calculators: Online Calculators - Tax, Finance, HR, Mathematics, Engineering, https://goodcalculators.com/inside-car-temperature-calculator/. Accessed 24 Apr. 2024.

About the Author: Dr. Katy Miller works as the Director of Veterinary Services at BSM Partners. She previously served for 11 years as the Director of Dog and Cat Health and Nutrition for Mud Bay, prior to which she practiced general and emergency medicine for 7 years. She is also a competitive 3-day eventer, licensed falconer, and claims only 2 (Golden and Mini Doxie) of their ten dogs.

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