Warm weather is calling! Humans and pets alike are delighted to respond to the siren call of sunshine, fresh air, and the invigorating scents that are such a welcome sign of summer.
Unfortunately, it sometimes gets a little too warm out. And, just like us, pets can suffer from too much of summer’s warmth. In this article, we’re going to discuss ways to keep your beloved pets cool and comfortable during summer’s hottest days. We’ll also cover the signs of heat distress and what to do if your pet begins exhibiting them.
Fresh Drinking Water Is Essential!
Your pets appreciate a nice cold drink on a hot day as much as you do. Since they can’t help themselves to a drink when they’re thirsty, it’s up to you to keep them hydrated. Keeping their water dishes clean and full of fresh water will help keep them healthy. Treating them to iced water on particularly hot days may encourage them to drink more.
So Is Adequate Shade
And no, that doesn’t include a dog house! Enclosed structures like dog houses trap heat and make things worse for your pet. Shade trees and tarp sunshades allow essential airflow while offering your pet the cool shade he craves. If you have a deck, your pet will probably enjoy lying beneath it, since shaded concrete stays nice and cool. From your pet’s perspective, dirt under the deck is even better since it allows him to dig out a nice cool hollow to lie in.
Give Your Pup a Pool
A kiddie pool with a few inches of water lets your pet have fun splashing and playing while he cools off. You may even find him snoozing the day away in his favorite pool! Just remember to adjust the water level to your pet’s age, size, and comfort level and keep the pool in the shade so the water stays cool.
A dog can certainly enjoy sharing your pool, but you’ll need to take safety precautions. Just like a small child, he should never be left unattended near the pool. He should also know how to swim (not all dogs are naturals!) and where to find the pool exits.
A Cooling Vest Can Help
A cooling vest is just that, a vest that helps cool your dog off while he’s wearing it. The vest works through the principle of evaporative cooling, drawing heat from your dog’s body and evaporating it so that your dog is surrounded by a layer of cool air. They work best where the humidity is low so that the evaporation process is more efficient.
Keep the Weight Off!
An overweight pet can quickly become overheated. Remember, he’s also wearing a fur coat! The combination of excess blubber and a fur coat can quickly turn deadly for your pet. A change in diet along with regular gentle exercise during cool periods will do wonders for your pet’s physique and his health.
Exercise in the Cool of the Day
Walking your pet in the coolest part of the day will help keep him from getting overheated. Choose grassy areas for your walks whenever possible since grass never gets hot enough to fry an egg — like sidewalks sometimes can! Always take plenty of water for each of you and stop and rest as needed, especially in humid weather.
Dogs pant as a way to cool off and that evaporative mechanism doesn’t work as well when the humidity is high. As Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association explains, “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly.”
Provide a Range of Temperature Options
Providing a range of options both inside and out will allow your pets to find a place where they feel cozy. An elderly cat or young puppy may find air conditioning too cool for comfort. By offering them choices, you allow them to find a temperature where they can be the most comfortable.
Recognizing Heat Distress
Heatstroke can affect any kind of pet but is especially likely to occur in pets that are very young, very old, have thick coats, are overweight, have heart disease, take certain medications, or are short-muzzled (brachycephalic) breeds that have trouble breathing. These short-muzzled breeds include Persian cats and English bulldog, pug, or boxer dogs, among others.
Signs of Overheating:
- A temperature over 104 °F in dogs, over 105 °F in cats
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive panting
- Profuse drooling
- An abnormally deep red or purple tongue
- Extreme thirst
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Glazed eyes
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Lack of coordination or stumbling
If your pet shows any of these signs of heat distress, move him to a cooler area immediately. Wet him down with cool (not ice cold) water or wet towels and set up a fan to blow on him. Then call your veterinarian’s office and notify them that you’re bringing in a pet with possible heatstroke. They’ll give you additional instructions and start preparing to treat your pet as soon as he arrives.