Hot weather safety for pets

Published: Jun. 9, 2017 at 11:01 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 11:00 AM CDT
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Animals may seem to adapt easier to changing weather conditions, which is one reason we see many of them chained in a yard, or brought along for exercise or a ride in the car. Pet owners need to remember how animals can be affected by dangerously hot weather, too.

Animals don't respond to the heat the same way people do. Dogs, for example, don't sweat through their skin. They cool themselves down by panting and sweating through their paw pads. Dogs overheat more often than cats. Like people, older animals have more difficulty dealing with hot weather.

Signs of heat stress in animals include:
  • Heavy, loud breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Lethargy, lack of energy
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lack of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Vomiting
What to do:
  • Get the animal to a cool place or shade
  • Apply a cold towel or ice pack to the animals head, neck, and chest
  • Provide water to drink
  • Immerse in tepid (not cold) water
  • Seek veterinary care immediately
Hot Weather Safety Tips:

Provide a cool, shady place to sleep during hot weather.

Feed animals doing the cooler hours of the day.

Keep plenty of clean, fresh water accessible at all times. Outdoors, keep drinking water in an anchored bucket or heavy bowl so it can't be knocked over.

For outdoor pets, consider providing a kiddie pool.

Do not take your pet in a car, for the same reasons you don't leave a child in a car. The inside of a vehicle can heat up a lot in a very short time. Animals can succumb to heat stroke in just 15 minutes even with the windows cracked open a few inches.

Do not take your dog exercising with you, such as when you go jogging or bicycling. Leave the animal at home. If you want to go running with your pet, do it early in the morning or at night when its cooler (unless the temperature is high even then). Also, remember that hot pavement can hurt your dog's paws.

Trim heavy-coated dogs fur. Leave at least an inch for protection against insect bites (see additional summertime tips below) and sunburn.

Pets can get sunburned, particularly short-haired pets and animals with pink or light-colored noses.

Don't take dogs in the bed of a pickup truck. Besides the obvious hazard of a quick stop or sudden turn, the hot metal or bedliner can hurt their paws.

If you see a dog left outdoors in a dangerous situation, such as chained without shade or water, report it to authorities.

Additional Summertime Tips

Be sure your pet's vaccinations are up-to-date. Dogs particularly need to be vaccinated against Parvo virus, which flourishes in hot weather. Rabies vaccinations also need to be current, since a pet's chances of encountering wildlife (which may carry rabies) are higher in the summer months.

Make sure your dog has been tested for heartworm and has medication. Heartworm can be transmitted by mosquitoes. It can be prevented with a monthly dose of medication between June and November.

Keep your pet well-groomed. Daily brushing or combing gives you a chance to look for ticks, fleas, or other parasites. Check with your veterinarian about preventive measures, and especially if your animal is scratching a lot or a wet lesion appears.

Keep your animal on a leash outdoors.

Keep windows closed or install heavy screens if you have cats. Cat deaths from high falls increase during the summer months.

Put your picnic garbage away where your dog can't get it. Corn cobs and chicken (and other) bones can be life-threatening.

Do not leave a dog unattended in a swimming pool area. Swimming does not come naturally to all dogs, and it can drown.