Ah, fun in the sun! The golden days of summer are finally here, and you can’t wait to take your dog to the beach, or camping with the family, or just rollicking in the back yard. Summer can be nothing short of magical. But, there are also dangers lurking in the hot shade, things that you need to be aware of in order to avoid having your dog become ill due to heat stroke, dehydration, or a burn.
Yes, pets can burn too, despite their hair! Due to their popularity, I will base this article mainly on cats and dogs.
The DO’s and DON’T’s of Hot Weather and Your Pet
DO make great quantities of cold fresh water available to your pet (of any species) at ALL times when the temperatures rise. Dogs like to swim and paddle to keep cool as well as drink, so fill up the kiddie pool for the dogs and kids, and leave buckets of water out as well in case their bowl becomes empty or gets knocked over. Indoors, for cats and dogs, keep at least two large bowls always filled, and float ice cubes in them to keep it cold.
DON’T place your rodent or lizard’s cage or tank near a window or in unshaded open sunlight, during any season, but mostly summertime. Check their water several times a day.
Tip: Most mammals sweat through their paws and tongues. However, heat is also dispersed from ears as well.
DON’T ever run your dog for long periods of time in summer heat, whatever the breed, but especially if they have more than a smooth single coat, are fat, or are brachycephalic (smushed-in noses) Some examples of brachycephalic are pugs, some Chihuahuas, Pekinese, English bulldogs, and French bulldogs.
DO have consistent shelter from the sun available at all times for ANY pet that goes outside, from cats, to dogs, to horses, to goats, cattle and sheep. And have huge quantities of water available for the bigguns! Always have more than one bowl, bucket or trough available, in case the first gets knocked over, emptied or contaminated.
Tip: Ice cubes can be a great toy during summer, for cooling and hydrating. To make it tasty for your dog, freeze cubes of chicken broth, or gravy made from soft canned food, or freeze bits of meat in with the water for those raw fed animals. For cats, some tuna juice in the ice cubes will do nicely!
DON’T allow your dog to sun him or herself for hours on end. Sure, Sunny the black Puggle may adore the sun to the point she is panting like a bellows and refuses to move to shade, but it’s not good for her. Sometimes, domestic animals are like us and follow their wants instead of what’s necessary and safe. So, drag Sunny out of the sun, and make sure she is drinking lots of water!
Tip: Some of the leading pet industry names have come out with ‘Cooling Vests’ for dogs that need them. You fill them with cold water, or even freeze them, and your dog can wear them for extra cooling when temperatures become ridiculous outside, or inside when air con isn’t available. I especially recommend these for breeds that do not do well in heat, including most brachycephalic breeds like English Bulldogs and Pugs, as well as breeds bred for cold such as Newfoundland’s, Alaskan Malamute’s, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs, or most any dog that has a dense wooly double coat. Also, elderly dogs and puppies are more at risk in the heat than healthy adults in their prime.
DO feed frozen food! If you feed raw, that’s easy. Say you feed kibble. Well, soak it in water, freeze it in Tupperware, and voila, cooling frozen food for dogs! The same applies with canned. Or mixing canned and kibble to freeze would be awesome as well.
However, if your dog won’t eat food at a lower temperature than room (which is a normal preference), then just make sure they eat in cool shelter and are drinking oodles of water.
MOST COMMON AND DEADLY MISTAKE PET GUARDIANS MAKE IN SUMMERTIME…
DON’T ever leave your dog in a vehicle if the temperature is over twenty five degrees Celsius – and even at 25 C, windows must be cracked, vehicle should be in full shade and fresh cold water accessible at all times. Even then, the inside of the car will get much, much hotter within minutes. The inside of the vehicle on a 29 Celsius/ 85 Fahrenheit day will rise to 38 Celsius/ 102 Fahrenheit within ten minutes, even WITH the windows cracked.
Be aware that a dog left in a partially shaded vehicle in 37 Celsius/ 100 Fahrenheit heat WILL DIE IN TWENTY MINUTES OR LESS. Dogs cannot sweat like we do, so they have no way to cool down if they cannot physically get out of the car as soon as the heat begins to rise. It takes your dog ten minutes to begin dehydrating, and it can take as few as twenty minutes for the heat to kill them from irreparable internal organ damage.
So, despite Sadie’s begging, or Bruiser’s insistence, fortify yourself against their shining eyes and adorable asking stance, and imagine them cooked if you have to! Because it is safer to leave pets at home when you are going out shopping or for coffee in summertime (unless you’re sitting with them on a coffee shop patio, though you must make shade and water available anyway in this circumstance).
If you’re still wavering about stopping at the mall on the way to the dog park, just think – the equivalent temperature required to kill a human adult in 20 minutes is around 60 degrees, or 140 F. Would YOU want to sit a vehicle that is 60 degrees inside, even for just a few minutes, even with the window cracked? Would you leave your child or baby in there in those kinds of temperatures for any length of time, while you ‘just nip in to the Convenience Mart’?
Be smart, and keep your pet as safe during summer heat as you do your kids!
Cat & Dog Behaviorist
Volunteer Rescuer and Foster Home