Cats and dogs do not do well in hot weather. Yet unlike their owners, these pets are stuck in layers of fur.
At the risk of heat stroke, pets must rely on panting and sweating through their paws to stay cool. Since our furry friends have limited options to beat the heat, it is up to their owners to keep them cool.
Dogs and cats—especially those domesticated, indoor pets—need special attention during the hot summer months. To help readers protect their fur babies, we’ve sourced some tips from both the American Humane Society and the American Red Cross on how to care for pets when temperatures rise.
- Our Fur Babies Need Extra Water - Regardless of where your pets live, they will need extra water during summer. Make it a point to periodically check on their hydration.
If your pet stays outside, then you’ll also want to check the bowl for insects. Bugs—such as pesky mosquitoes—are attracted to standing water. If you’ve got an outdoor pet, you’ll want to separately research bug treatment options for their water.
- Limit Exercise in the Heat - When driving around, you can often find people running on a very hot day, with a panting dog blithely keeping pace.
The dog’s face might tell the owner, “Hey! I’m fine.” Except they’re not fine. They’re actually overheating.
Let me be clear in saying that exercise is important for people and pets year-round. However, there’s a right way to do it. That right way includes planning to exercise during times of low heat, such as the early morning or dusk.
- Be Aware of Heat Stroke - Now that we’ve covered that dogs and cats can get heat stroke, it’s important to know these symptoms.
For dogs, signs of heat stroke include sticky and drippy saliva, a bright red tongue and gums, excessive panting, abnormal drowsiness, vomiting and diarrhea, small amounts of dark urine, and physical weakness.
For cats, many of the same symptoms apply. Cat owners should also look for agitation and pacing in their pets.
Immediately get your pet out of the heat if they show any of these symptoms. If they’re overheated, spray them with cool water and place them near a cooling fan. This will help to lower their core temperature. You’ll want to give them small amounts of tepid—and not cold—water to drink.
Then, get them immediately to your veterinarian. If not treated quickly, heat stroke can cause seizures, coma, and death.
- Never Leave a Pet in a Hot Car - Even if the windows are down, and they have water. This is a terrible idea.
According to Live Science, the inside temperature of a car parked in the sun during temps of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter can hit an average of 116 degrees Fahrenheit! That is within an hour’s time!
A car’s dashboard can get even hotter, reaching 157 degrees Fahrenheit on average. Steering wheels can climb to an average of 127 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature of the seats averages 123 degrees Fahrenheit.
You wouldn’t stick your pets into a warm oven. Don’t leave them in the car.
- Avoid Pavement or Dirt When it’s Hot - If you’re taking your dog for a walk, remember that “grass is your friend.”
When the temperature outside is 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the asphalt can get to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. This is literally hot enough to fry an egg in five seconds! The American Kennel Club shares that these temps can burn and blister a pet’s feet, prompting an unnecessary visit to the veterinarian.
- Make Sure Outdoor Pets Have Plenty of Shade - Sunlight brings heat. The less light and heat, the better.
If you have an outdoor cat or dog, make sure that they have lots of shade. This shade will help diffuse the heat, thus cooling your pet’s resting place. Consider what items you can put between your pets and the sun to block the sunlight.
- Keep an Eye Out During Summer Shindigs - The obvious point here for any summer food get-together would be a hot grill. Hot grills are only the beginning of your worries, though.
Some food items contain ingredients that are toxic to pets, including raisins, grapes, onions, chives, chocolate, avocado, beer, mustard, tea, artificial sweetener, moldy foods, cherry pits, peach pits, and tomato leaves/stems.
In the event that your pet consumes something that they shouldn’t, call your veterinarian or Poison Control immediately. In certain scenarios, Dogs that have been poisoned can be given fresh hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting. Cats must be treated differently, requiring injectables from a veterinarian.
- Put Away Toxic ‘Environmental Protection’ Items - While safe for humans, sunscreens/sunblocks, insect sprays, citronella, and even glow sticks are all toxic for pets. Make sure to secure these items.
- Thunderstorms Can Scare Pets Into Running Away - Be sure to keep pets safely inside during a thunderstorm. These storms are prevalent in July and August.
- Know Your Garden - Chewy has a complete list of bedding plants and herbs that are poisonous to dogs, and The Spruce Pets has a list of items that will harm cats. Some common plants that are toxic to both include azaleas, begonia, hydrangeas, iris bulbs, wisteria, tarragon, camellia, dill, wild onion, oregano, pampas grass, and aloe. A full list of pet-toxic plans can be found via Aspca’s website, along with pictures.
Anyone wanting to learn more about caring for pets during severe weather or emergency situations can find a ton of information via the American Red Cross website.