Keeping Your Family Pet Cool and Healthy in the Summer

As the days begin to heat up, our pets may begin to suffer. Since our furry friends can’t speak, it’s easy for us to forget about or neglect their needs on hot days. Here are some tips for making sure your pets stay cool and healthy this summer.

Water

The importance of easy access to fresh water at all times is crucial, especially during the summer. If your animals are indoor/outdoor, make sure there is water outside as well as inside.

To keep the water cool, you can put ice cubes in it or, to help keep the supply fresh and cool, freeze a plastic container of water (such as a margarine container) and unmold the ice block into your pet’s water bowl. It will slowly melt, providing a supply of fresh, cool water. Animals can lick the ice, too, and cool their tongues (the tongue is the primary way a dog cools itself).

Shade

Shade is vital for keeping pets cool outdoors. If there is no breeze, fans also help keep animals cool while they are in the shade. If you have dogs and cats that are exclusively outdoors, make sure to provide shady areas besides just a doghouse or one tree. Remember, at noon one tree doesn’t provide much shade.

In or Out?

If you have pets that are indoor and outdoor, try to restrict outside time (especially exercise time, like brisk walks) to early morning and evening, when the sun is not strong or is even below the horizon.

Signs of Heatstroke

Heatstroke is a dangerous condition that your pets can develop after long hours (or even minutes) in the heat. In dogs, heatstroke is signified by excessive panting, agitated behavior, rapid heartbeat, fever, and lethargy. Cats are a bit different – panting for more than a moment or two is cause for concern in felines, as are rapid pulse, agitation (like pacing), and fever. Ironically, cats may stop drinking or drink very little when experiencing heatstroke.

If you suspect heatstroke, get your dog out of the sun right away and into air conditioning if possible. Bathe your dog in cool water or cooled peppermint tea and wrap him in cool, wet towels. Cats should also be removed from the sun and heat, and placed in the shade in front of a fan or in an air conditioned room or vehicle. Try to get cold water into your cat by dropping ice water into the edge of the mouth.

Cars

No discussion of summer pet safety is complete without a warning about leaving pets in hot cars. Even if “it’s not that hot” or “it’s just for a minute,” do not ever leave your pet in a car on a sunny day. Even with windows partly down (most pet owners can’t leave the windows all the way down because their pet would escape), the heat in a car can kill your pet in a matter of minutes.