As summer temperatures rise, pets are at high risk for overheating. Particularly if you bring your pet outdoors, you'll want to be vigilant about taking precautions and watching for danger signs. Here are some simple pointers on keeping your dog or cat cool.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The most important measure is to always have a bowl of cool clean water available. Dogs and cats have a higher body temperature than ours; they get hot long before we do. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion. In dogs, a couple of signs are rapid panting and a bright red tongue; in cats, signs are panting and dark red gums, among others.
- Never leave your pet alone in a vehicle. Even with windows open, a parked car, truck, or van can quickly become a sauna, and overheating can be fatal. Parking in shade offers little protection, as the sun shifts during the day. When traveling, it's a good idea to carry a gallon-size bottle filled with fresh cold water so you'll always have water on hand for your pet.
- Don't force your pet to exercise after a meal in hot, humid weather. The time for physical activity is the cool of the early morning or evening.
- In extremely hot weather, keep walks to a minimum. Hot asphalt can raise your pet's body temperature quickly and may burn her pads. Early morning walks are the safest as the asphalt has cooled somewhat overnight.
- When taking your pet to the beach, provide a shaded spot and plenty of fresh drinking water. Rinse her off after she's been in salt water.
- Make sure there's always plenty of shade available for a pet staying outside the house. A properly constructed doghouse is best. Bring your pet inside during the heat of the day, and let her rest in a cool part of your house. Always provide plenty of cool, clean water.
- Older pets are more sensitive to heat. Brachycephalic, or snub-nosed dogs (especially Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, and Shih Tzus), and those with heart or lung disease should be kept indoors in air-conditioning as much as possible.
- Avoid walking your dog anywhere you suspect has been sprayed with toxic chemicals. Poisonings increase during the summer, when gardens, lawns, and trees are sprayed. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) if you suspect your animal has been exposed.
- Be alert for antifreeze coolant leaking from your vehicle. Animals are attracted to the sweet taste of coolant. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat, and less than one tablespoon can kill a 20-pound dog. Consider using animal-friendly products that use propylene glycol rather than those containing ethylene glycol.
- A clean coat can help to prevent summer skin problems, so keep your pet well groomed. If she has a heavy coat, shaving your dog's hair to a 1-inch length will help prevent overheating. But don't shave your dog's fur down to the skin; this robs her of protection from the sun. A cat should be brushed frequently.