Heading outside to enjoy the summer sunshine with your furry pal is the best. However, if your pet has too much fun in the sun, heat, or humidity, they can become miserable, and at risk for heatstroke—a potentially deadly condition. The temperature does not have to be sweltering to be hazardous to your pet, as moderate temperatures in the 70s, strenuous activity, bright sunshine, and high humidity create a perfect storm for heat danger. To help your four-legged friend have fun and remain healthy this summer, follow our All Creatures Animal Hospital team’s heat safety tips.
#1: Check the weather before heading outside with your pet
You have likely decided to forgo outdoor exercise after stepping outside during summer’s high heat and humidity levels, while struggling to breathe a thick, moisture-laden breath. When your pet steps out in these unbearable weather conditions, their tongue lolls out to the ground. To protect your pet’s health during summer outings, check the forecast before leaving the house. If the weather is projected to be hot and muggy all day, stick to indoor activities. If the early morning will be comfortable, take your pet out for an early morning walk before the temperature and humidity levels climb.
#2: Avoid scorching sidewalks when walking your pet
Pavements can become scorching when they absorb the hot summer sun’s heat, making walking in bare feet akin to crossing a path of hot coals. Your pets paw pads are also sensitive, and can easily burn and blister on sizzling pavement. Avoid taking your daily walks on the sidewalk, and opt instead for a grass, dirt, or fully shaded trail.
#3: Stick to water activities to keep your pet cool outside
Outdoor water activities offer your pet a great way to stay cool and comfortable when the summertime temperatures skyrocket. If your pet likes to jump into your swimming pool’s deep end, ensure they know how to swim well without assistance, or outfit them in a safety vest. If your pet prefers to splash around in shallow water, fill a child’s wading pool with a few inches’ water, and include floating toys and treats. Your pet may also enjoy cooling off by playing in a sprinkler or on a splash pad.
#4: Keep your pet hydrated
Dehydration can take your pet by surprise during the hot summer temperatures, especially if they tend to play without stopping. Encourage your pet to take frequent water and rest breaks. Set up a drinking fountain to ensure your pet always has access to fresh, cool water, or toss some ice cubes in their water bowl to keep the water extra refreshing. Frozen treats—a frozen stuffed Kong, or frozen canned food cubes—can also help your pet stay cool.
#5: Groom your pet appropriately for the summer
Shaving your pet down to the skin will not help keep them cool, and can actually interfere with their natural ability to regulate their body temperature. Your pet’s hair coat keeps them cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and removing their hair can make body temperature regulation more difficult for your pet. Instead of shaving your pet, brush them regularly to remove loose fur, and to disperse protective skin oils. In addition, regular brushing prevents your pet from developing mats, and is a great way to help them stay cool.
#6: Watch for heatstroke warning signs in pets
Including your pet makes outdoor summer activities more enjoyable. However, remember to monitor your furry pal closely for heatstroke signs, which can include:
- Heavy panting
- Excessive drooling
- Brick-red gums
- Confusion or disorientation
- Unsteady gait
At your pet’s first overheating signs, head indoors immediately to cool off.
#7: Know how to administer heatstroke first aid to your pet
If your pet shows overheating signs, take their temperature with a rectal thermometer, and if their temperature is 104 degrees or higher, you must cool them down. Put your pet in the bathtub, and run cool water over their body, avoiding their head, and to help dissipate the heat, point a fan at them. Do not wrap your pet in wet towels, as this can trap heat. Offer your pet fresh water, but do not force them to drink. Check your pet’s body temperature every five minutes. Once your pet’s body temperature falls to 103 degrees, stop cooling measures to avoid over cooling them. Once your pet has been cooled sufficiently, bring them to All Creatures Animal Hospital for a thorough physical exam to determine whether they have experienced organ damage.
Your pet can quickly overheat on a hot summer’s day. If your pet shows heatstroke signs, contact our All Creatures Animal Hospital team to perform a complete health exam after you have brought down your pet’s temperature with at-home cooling methods.