Summertime means more time for fun in the sun with friends, family and pets. But summer’s heat can also lead to increased visits to the veterinary clinic, according to information from Nationwide Pet Insurance (formerly Veterinary Pet Insurance). Soaring summer temperatures put pets at risk for dehydration, sunburn, burned paw pads, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The good news is these heat-related health problems can be prevented with a little knowledge, planning and precautions. Here are seven tips to help your dog and cat beat summer’s heat.
- Keep water bowls filled with fresh, cool water.
Whether lounging in the house, playing in the backyard or running in the park, make sure your pets have access to lots of fresh, cool water. While cats and dogs have some sweat glands on their paw pads, they don’t sweat to release body heat like we do. To cool off, dogs pant and cats groom more than usual. These cooling methods result in moisture loss from the pet’s tongue, and this water needs to be replaced to avoid dehydration.
Don’t overlook the possibility that your home may become uncomfortably warm during hot weather. Be sure to refresh water bowls often, and adding ice cubes occasionally can help keep water cool.
Outdoor water bowls should be kept in the shade. Water should be replaced frequently with cool, fresh water (and not water heated by the sun) to keep it as cool as possible. Again, consider adding ice cubes to help it stay cool longer.
Finally, if you’re at the park with your dog, consider bringing a collapsible bowl along in case your pet won’t drink from a water bottle.
- Provide plenty of shade or cool places for rest.
If your pets stay outside for extended periods of time during the summer, always have a comfortable sheltered area available so they can escape the sun’s rays. You may assume — like many dog owners — that a doghouse provides adequate protection from summer heat. However, if the doghouse has poor air circulation, it may actually become too hot. Keep in mind, too, a morning shady spot can become scorching hot by midafternoon.
For indoor cats and dogs, access to tile floors or the basement will help them stay comfortable when your home heats up during the day. Another option is to run the air conditioner or fan to help keep the interior temperature comfortable.
- It’s not just the heat, it’s the humidity.
Like high air temperatures, high humidity — the amount of water vapor in the air — can make it difficult for dogs and cats to adequately cool themselves. Panting and frequent grooming use water evaporation to remove body heat. As humidity rises, water doesn’t evaporate as well, so heat is not released like it would be at a lower humidity. As a result, dogs and cats may be susceptible to dangerous increases in body temperature.
Using an air conditioner can help lower humidity while cooling your home, providing a more comfortable environment for your pets.
- Never, ever leave your pet alone in the car.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion and heatstroke each year when they are left in parked vehicles. Even on a 70-degree day, the temperature inside your car can reach nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit in 20 minutes. If the outdoor air temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a vehicle’s interior temperature can climb to almost 120 degrees Fahrenheit in 20 minutes. Cracking the windows open and parking in the shade have little effect on the vehicle’s interior temperature. This can mean serious trouble for dogs and cats. So while your pet might love car rides with you, they may be better off at home during hot weather.
- Change up your dog’s exercise routine.
Dogs still need exercise during the summer, but you’ll want to avoid walking your dog midday when summertime heat can be at its worst. Consider walking your dog early in the morning, around dusk or after sunset when it’s cooler.
Another option for “cool” activities with your dog include playing in the water, such as running through a sprinkler, splashing in a kiddie pool or at the beach, or going for a swim instead of a walk. However, there may be times when it’s simply too hot outside. Space permitting, play fetch with your dog indoors or schedule a playdate at a local doggy day care.
- Don’t forget the sunscreen.
Because dogs have fur, many people assume dogs are naturally protected from sunburn. Unfortunately, that’s not quite true. While fur does protect against some ultraviolet rays, there are body areas — the bridge of the nose, lips, ear tips and belly — that are vulnerable to sunburn. Specially formulated pet sunscreens are available, so talk with your veterinarian about the best solution for your pet.
- Avoid hot sidewalks and other paved surfaces.
Sidewalks, roads, sand and truck surfaces can become extremely hot as they absorb heat from the sun during the day. These surfaces can stay hot long after sunset and can easily burn your dog’s paw pads. To check pavement heat before walking your pet, place your hand or bare foot on the surface for 10 seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet.
Instead, choose routes where your dog can walk on grass or tree-covered trails. Another option is to purchase booties to protect your dog’s paws.
Have fun — safely
We all want to enjoy the outdoors with our pets during summer. The key to safe summertime fun is to be aware of the potential dangers for our dogs and cats so we can protect them from health issues.