While the summer months bring more opportunities for fun and adventure, they also bring the potential for additional outdoor hazards for your pet. In our survey of pet owners in the U.S. and Canada, approximately 77% stated that their pets have had a negative experience due to extreme heat. During a heat wave, there are precautions you can take to keep your pets safe and cool. Heat-related illness can be fatal. Never take a chance on letting a pet get overheated or overexposed to high seasonal temperatures.
Since dehydration can occur more quickly in hot weather, providing your dog access to clean and fresh water is critical to keeping them safe in elevated temperatures. Be sure to bring water with you on walks or trips outside, as well as on summer road trips with your dog. Keep in mind that although your dog may need water, they may be reluctant to drink out of an unusual container or from a container other than their familiar water bowl. Practice ahead of time and try offering water to your pup in various ways, such as from your hand, a collapsible bowl, or a travel bottle. Don’t underestimate how much water you might need. A good wetting down is one of the best ways to quickly cool an overheated pet, but it uses up drinking water in a hurry.
Let your dog sleep through the heat of the day in a shady spot with a breeze, or better yet, indoors in the air conditioning. Provide outdoor dogs access to shade during the day and make sure that enclosures such as dog houses are adequately ventilated and comfortable. If you leave the house to go to work, make sure to keep the thermostat set at a comfortable level for your pets at home.
When heat waves bring hot, humid weather, try taking dogs for walks in the early morning or late evening hours when the weather is cooler. Check the pavement with the back of your hand before walking to make sure it’s comfortable to touch. When the humidity is high, even relatively low temperatures ranging from 65℉ to 70℉ (18℃ to 21℃) can create unsafe conditions for dogs to exercise outdoors. Take caution and consider limiting outdoor walking and exercising time when the temperature is above 75℉ (24℃) as this is when heat stress is more likely to occur.
Summer activities that humans use to cool down, such as swimming or frolicking in a garden sprinkler, can be suitable for dogs as well. Getting wet can help to minimize heat stress for your pet. Bodies of water can also present hazards, so be aware of potential risks like algae blooms, wildlife, toxins, and strong currents. Consider using a canine flotation device (life jacket) and always supervise your dog while swimming. Even when swimming, provide your dog with fresh drinking water. As a rule of thumb, if you are thirsty, your pet is likely thirsty as well.
If your smaller canine companion is accompanying you outside the house in hot weather, placing them in a stroller may be a simple way to keep their feet off the hot pavement. Carrying a smaller dog is another option when hot pavement cannot be avoided. The sun can heat pavement to dangerously high temperatures even when the air isn’t all that hot, and it doesn’t take long for hot pavement to burn your dog's paws. Your dog may not let you know their feet are burning, so monitor the conditions and plan to carry your dog if needed. Never leave your dog, or any pet, unattended in a car, even for a few minutes. Temperatures in a car can increase rapidly and lead to fatal heatstroke. Since it is illegal to leave an animal unattended in a car in many places, having a stroller or carry bag for your dog on hand can ensure you’re prepared when you’re out and about but it’s too hot for them to walk on the pavement.
While there are many tips and tricks to keep your pet comfortable in the summer heat, sometimes it just isn’t enough. Some dogs, such as overweight dogs, dogs with underlying health issues like heart disease, brachycephalic dogs, or dogs who are used to colder climates, may have extra difficulty adjusting to the heat. In this case, your dog may need air conditioning to stay adequately cool. Don’t leave dogs outdoors in extreme temperatures, especially in enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation, such as dog houses. Enclosures with concrete floors can be especially dangerous as they conduct heat more than grass or hay. Above temperatures of about 90℉ (32℃), dogs should be kept indoors where it’s cool.
While some pet owners may think that protective shoes for pets are frivolous or look silly, they can serve an important purpose. Just like human feet, your pup's feet may benefit from protection against the ground, especially during the summer heat. Paw pad burns can happen after only seconds of contact with hot pavement. If you can’t hold the back of your hand to the surface of the ground for seven continuous seconds, then it is too hot for your pup to walk on. Many dogs will resist wearing shoes or boots at first. Make sure that any protective shoes fit over your dog's paws properly and comfortably, and train them to get used to wearing them before you try to use them on a walk.
Our pets have evolved to handle exposure to the sun without a need for sunscreen. They have pigmented skin and fur to protect them from the harsh UV rays. Sunscreen is not necessary for healthy dogs. If your dog has a bare patch of skin from a recent surgery or injury, that skin is at risk for sunburn and should be protected. Similarly, hairless dogs or dogs with medical conditions that cause hair loss may experience a sunburn. The best way to prevent sunburn in pets, however, isn’t sunscreen. Dogs tend to lick off anything applied to their skin, and ingesting sunscreen, even one that’s marketed as being pet-friendly, isn’t ideal. Protect sensitive skin with clothing or shade instead. Or better yet, stay indoors. Shaving down the fur on a long-haired pet may be a summer tradition, but it’s not a necessity and can actually end up making things worse. A healthy, clean coat that’s free of mats provides protection from both UV exposure and heat. Grooming is necessary if your pet’s coat is dirty or matted, but most pets never need to be shaved, and some shouldn’t be shaved ever. For more information about summer grooming for your pet, read here.
Overheating is a process, and early recognition of the signs is the key to timely intervention. If you’re out in the heat with your canine companion, pay attention to their behavior so you can take steps to cool them down before symptoms become more severe. Early signs your dog may be getting overheated include heavy, rapid panting and an unwillingness to walk, play or run. A dog who is getting uncomfortably hot will stop walking and running and try to lie down in the shade or dig down to reach cool dirt. Take measures to cool your pet in this situation, before their symptoms get worse. Some of the more serious signs of overheating include:
Vomiting and diarrhea
Loss of consciousness
If your pet is experiencing any of these 5 specific symptoms, this is a medical EMERGENCY requiring immediate in-clinic veterinary attention.
The dangerous effects of heat on pets can range from mild to severe and even lead to death. Overheating can happen quickly. If your pet begins displaying symptoms of overheating, take measures to cool them, provide water, and seek immediate help. Vetster is available 24/7 on demand with online virtual care appointments that put your pet’s health first.
A licensed online vet can help assess your pet’s condition and advise you on the steps you can take to make your pet more comfortable if they have been affected by the heat. Mildly overheated dogs will cool down rapidly once they are out of the heat and can rest, but more seriously overheated dogs require more aggressive intervention and emergency medical care. A licensed online vet at Vetster will make sure you have the information you need to decide what to do next. For urgent questions, checkups, and everything in between, take control of your pet’s health with Vetster.
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