How to Protect Your Pet From Summer Heat

By Erin Cassidy
7/26/2013 10:36:27 AM

When temperatures reach the 100s, everyone is desperate for relief from the heat. But pet owners may not realize that their four-legged friends can suffer through the heat as well, all while wearing a fur coat! As a result, heat stroke and dehydration are extremely common amongst pets during the warmer months. Kirstein Theisen, the director of Pet Care Issues for the Humane Society of the United States, advises that "There are extra precautions that you have to take to make sure that [your pets] are staying cool."

Our pets are especially at risk during high humidity since they don't have the ability to cool off as efficiently as humans do. Theisen explains that, "Dogs and cats pant through their mouth. Obviously, that means moisture has to leave, and if they are breathing very wet air themselves, it's harder for them to cool off through panting or the pads of their feet." Compared with humans, who have the ability to perspire, "It's a slow process, it takes longer for them to cool down and they can get into danger a lot faster." However, there are many things you can do to ensure that your pet is safe and comfortable during the heat.

As most responsible pet owners know, there is never an acceptable time to leave your pet unattended in a car. "Not even for a single minute, it's just not safe," says Theisen. So even while making quick errands, plan to either bring your pet with you or leave them in the comfort of your home.

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If you do leave your pet at home, extra precautions also need to be taken for their safety. While turning up your thermostat during the day when you aren't around seems like a good way to save on energy costs, remember that your pet will be susceptible to any heat that accumulates during that time. Theisen stresses, "It's not worth the risk to our pet's happiness or well-being to let them overheat by mistake by setting the thermostat too high." Also, make sure that your pet has access to the lowest level of the house or "traditionally, the coolest [room]."

Photo courtesy of Kristen Connolly

There are also many things you can do for your dog to help them through the hot weather. For example, you can use a kiddie pool as a "dog cooling station," fill their water bowls with ice cubes or freeze treats as a fun snack. Theisen says that "Rubber chew toys freeze very nicely; stuff them with peanut butter or some treats and stick it all in the freezer" for a fun treat that also helps them stay cool.

Also, remember to prepare for events like power outages during the summer that can leave you and your pet vulnerable to the heat. Make a plan now to ensure that you can go somewhere that is pet-friendly. "If you can't stay in your house comfortably, your pets can't stay in your house comfortably," says Theisen.

So while we are all suffering through the heat, remember the furry members of your family as well. By using these proactive measures, you can help your pet through the "dog days of summer" and continue to enjoy the summer season!