Common-Sense Care Tips for Keeping Pets Cool in the Summer

Posted - July 10, 2020

By Arden Moore – The Pet Health and Safety Coach™

Hot dogs. These two words may make you think of those meaty treats inside toasted buns. But hot dogs can also describe a life-threatening condition – heat stroke – that can quickly occur not only in dogs, but indoor cats, too.

Summer’s arrival signals higher temperatures. Sunny skies can increase the risk of injury, even death to pets for heat-related incidents. That’s why as a master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor, I am on a mission to educate pet parents and pet professionals about hot weather hazards facing their dogs and cats.

For starters, recognize that dogs and cats do not sweat like people do. While we are blessed with skin pores all over our bodies, pets sweat through their paw pads. And, they try to cool down their body core temperatures by panting. So, hosing a pet’s coat is not effective in dropping the body core temperature.

Heat and humidity affect pets, especially breeds with flat-faces — such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese and Persians — or pets with heavy coats. High temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or the more dangerous heatstroke also known as hyperthermia.

When a pet’s body rises above 103 degrees, it puts that pet at risk for heat stroke.

Watch Out for These Heat-Related Signs

Administer pet first aid and quickly transport your pet to a nearby veterinary clinic if he displays any or all of these signs of heat exhaustion:

  • Bright red gums
  • Excessive salivation
  • Dilated pupils with a panicked look on the face
  • Excessive panting and difficulty breathing
  • Sweaty paws
  • Increased heart rate
  • Collapsing or convulsing
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

If your pet is showing early signs of heat exhaustion, follow this action plan:

  1. Remove your pet from direct heat and bring him to a shaded area or inside your air-conditioned home.
  2. Place his paws in cool water. Never use ice cubes because you risk shocking your pet’s body system. Ice cubes or ice-cold water can cause your pet’s capillaries to shrink, impede blood flow and even cause shock.
  3. Drape and dab your pet’s abdomen area in a cool, wet towel. However, do not leave the wet towel on his body as it will trap in the body heat and cause a sauna heat effect.
  4. Monitor his breathing and heart rate and be prepared to administer CPR and rescue breathing, if necessary.
  5. Immediately transport your pet to the nearest veterinary clinic – call ahead!

Hot Cats and Dogs Spell Disaster

Pets can succumb to heat in many places – indoors and outside. Let’s start with the obvious danger – pets stuck inside hot cars. Even on a day when it is 70 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car with all the windows closed can hit 90 degrees in just 10 minutes. On an 85-degree day, it can shoot up to 102 degrees or higher during that same short time span, according to emergency medicine veterinarians.

So, how hot does it get in a parked car for a pet – even with all the windows opened a bit? Check out this video from nationally known veterinarian, Ernie Ward, DVM. He sat inside a car with all the windows cracked open. Watch how quickly his clothes and body get soaked. The temperature inside the parked car reached 117 degrees within a half hour. To view this video, click this link: http://youtu.be/JbOcCQ-y3OY .

Now, let’s look at an unexpected contributor to heat stroke: pets left in confined spaces with little or no ventilation inside the home. Pets in crates positioned next to sunny windows can suffer heat stroke, especially if your air conditioner conks out while you are not home. Covering these crates with thick towels can also trap the heat inside and block any ventilation.

Some indoor cats can overheat or suffer sunburns, especially if they nap next to windows facing east and west – directions that draw the sun’s most heat. So, please position any cat window ledge perches or cat trees near windows facing north and south. 

Tone Down Outdoor Activities on Hot Days

Outdoor activities with your dog can also trigger heat stroke. If your dog loves, loves, loves to play fetch, time this activity during the coolest part of the day. In hot weather, limit the throws to a few so you do not overexert your dog and spike his body core temperature.

During these COVID-19 times, more people are taking their dogs out for walks – sometimes multiple times a day to battle boredom caused by being quarantined in their homes. Depending on your dog’s age and health condition, determine the safest number and duration of daily walks. To ensure that the sidewalk is not too hot for your dog’s feet, place your hand, palm side up, on the concrete. If it feels too hot to your touch, it will be too hot for your shoe-less canine.

On a dry day with the outside temperature registering 77 degrees, the pavement temperature is actually 125 degrees. Paws standing in place on the pavement can burn in one minute. If the outside temperature is 86 degrees, the pavement temperature is a hot 135 degrees – enough to for an egg within five minutes. Always bring water and strive to walk on cooler surfaces like grass.

Opt to incorporate other interactive activities inside your home, such as teaching your dog a new trick or playing a game of ‘sniffafari’ in which you hide small treats in a room and encourage your dog to sniff them out.

Keep Those Coats Clean and Cool

Maintain healthy coats in your dogs with regular grooming sessions and baths. The skin is your dog’s largest organ, so healthy coats are crucial. Consider using quality shampoos and conditioners made by ZYMOX that are formulated with proteins, enzymes and Vitamin D3 and free of any detergents, chlorines or parabens.

Arden MooreArden Moore wears many collars in the pet world. She is a best-selling author, master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor, pet behavior consultant, host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and happy pet parent to a Furry Brady Bunch in Dallas. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.