In Minnesota, “heat” seems like such a wonderful word after our endless months of cold and snow. So we always take full advantage of warm, summer days by going to the beach, a Twins game, or fishing. But just like we have to protect ourselves from the heat with air conditioning (AC), water, shade, and light clothes, our pets need protection too!
Here are a few ways to prevent your pet from overheating this summer:
1. Always provide water and shade. Not much explanation needed here. Just like you, your pet needs to stay hydrated and cool down in a shady area or in the AC during the summer.
2. If your dog has a “pushed-in” face, be extra mindful of the heat. Brachycephalic dogs, like Bulldogs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, and Pugs, can have trouble breathing even under cool conditions due to their facial anatomy. When temperatures and humidity rise, these dogs overheat more easily than most. Watch these dogs closely in the heat.
3. Never, ever, ever leave your pet in a parked car. You might say “oh it’s only for a few minutes while I go run and grab one thing from the store” while you’re on your way home from the vet. Don’t leave your pet in the car, even if the window is open. You wouldn’t do this to your kids, so don’t do it to your pets! Those few minutes running into the grocery store could cause irreversible organ damage to your pet.
A parked car can reach up to 102°F on an 80°F day after ten minutes. It can cook up to 120°F after thirty minutes. This video, created by Dr. Ernie Ward, provides an eye-opening perspective on what it’s like for dogs inside parked cars in the summer.
4. Watch the humidity.
If it’s going to be a scorching day, do not keep your pet outside for long periods of time. If you’re going to be gone for a while, let your pet stay inside because even if you have a doggy pool outside, the water will eventually warm up. So make sure you keep your pet cool (see #5).
5. Keep your pet cool.
Let your pet cool down with not only shade and water, but also with frozen pet treats ( like peanut butter pops), being inside with the AC, cool baths, damp towels, or cooling wraps or mats for your pet (which is especially a great thing to have if you don’t have AC). Also, brush your pet daily to get rid of some extra hair! For cats, you can also try letting them chase around ice cubes!
6. Don’t make your pet exercise too much.
If it’s a really hot day, don’t expect your dog to go on his or her usual thirty minute walk. Instead, go for ten minutes. Certainly don’t expect your dog to go for a run in the heat of the day. Remember, dogs can’t perspire like you can to cool off! If you live near a clean lake, let your dog take a dip to cool off mid-walk. Bring a water bottle too for your dog (and you!).
Just in case the heat gets to be too much, here are symptoms to look for if you suspect your pet is suffering from a heatstroke:
- An extreme amount of salivation
- Heavy panting
- Trouble breathing
- Overly thirsty
- Rapid heartbeat
- Lack of coordination
Contact your veterinarian immediately if you believe the heat is endangering your pet!