This summer has been a scorcher, with The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reporting July 2021 as the hottest month ever on record. We’ve all been feeling the heat and coping with it as best we can, and many people have been wondering what they can do to keep their pets cool, too. Having a thick coat of fur certainly doesn’t make weathering the high temperatures any easier, so we’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks for keeping your pets safe and comfortable for the rest of the summer.
Stay Indoors: This one might seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing that one of the most effective ways you can protect your pets from the heat is to keep them indoors, particularly during the middle of the day. We recommend walking your dog early in the morning and later in the evening, when the ground won’t be too hot and the sun won’t be too strong.
Alternatively, swimming is a great exercise for dogs who enjoy it, and cold water will help your dog cool off. For cat owners – if you usually let your cat outside, consider keeping her inside, especially on days when the temperature is forecast to be high.
If you don’t have central A/C in your home, there are other ways to keep your indoor space cool: keep the blinds closed, and place any fans you have in strategic spots to direct cool air towards your pet.
Create Shade: Make sure that your pet has access to shade when they’re outside. If your yard doesn’t have much natural shade, consider purchasing a canopy or a pet tent to provide your pet with refuge from the sun for when they are outside.
Know Your Pet: It’s important to know how your pet naturally regulates his body temperature, and to be able to recognize the signs of overheating or heatstroke.
Dogs rely on panting to keep cool, as they can’t sweat (except from their paws). If you notice that your dog is panting excessively or rapidly, that probably means he’s hot, and it can be a sign of heat stroke. Move your dog to a cool place with air, run a damp, cool washcloth over him, and call your vet immediately. Other signs of heatstroke in dogs include collapse and unusual dribbling.
Cats don’t sweat, either, but they will lick their coats to create a similar evaporative cool-down effect to sweating. You can simulate this effect by gently stroking your cat with a damp, cool washcloth (which, admittedly, he might not like very much, but he can thank you later). Like dogs, cats will also pant when they get very hot. If you notice your cat panting, move him to a cool place—tile or wood floors tend to be cooler than carpet. If the panting increases or your cat’s breathing becomes distressed, or if he’s drooling, these could be signs of heatstroke—call your vet.
Keep Them Hydrated: One of the most important things you can do to keep your pet safe and healthy in the summer is to ensure that they have plentiful access to clean water so that they don’t become dehydrated. We suggest having a few water bowls available to your pet and stay on top of keeping them filled. If you let your pet outside, be sure that she has access to a filled water bowl outside, too.
When you take your dog for a walk or a hike, don’t forget to bring a portable water bowl for him, and enough water for both of you. In general, a dog that weighs around fifty pounds will drink 4-8 ounces of water at a time (scale those numbers up or down depending on the size of your own dog). It’s a good idea to stop and offer water to your dog every twenty minutes or so.
A lot of cats love to drink from running water rather than from a bowl. To encourage your cat to drink, you might consider getting her a drinking fountain. Cats also often prefer to get their water from their food, so feeding your cat canned wet food can improve their hydration, too.
Avoid Car Trips: Lastly, it’s never a good idea to leave your pet in a car, even only briefly—especially when it’s hot out. If you do take your pet on any car trips, make sure someone is with them the whole time they’re in the car.
Talk to your vet about other ways to keep your pet cool and safe.