Dog Days of Summer: How to keep pets cool and healthy in the heat

Carrington College students with their dogs. (Submitted photo)

Carrington College students with their dogs. (Submitted photo)

From people to pooches, the summer is hot for everyone. Since our furry loved ones carry a permanent fur coat on their backs year-round, they need extra attention to stay healthy and hydrated when it’s hot.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association temperatures inside a vehicle can rise almost 20°F in just 10 minutes and almost 30°F in 20 minutes – even with the windows partially open. In fact, vehicles can reach temperatures that either put pets in serious harm or could cause death – even on a day that doesn’t seem hot to you.

Hydration is key to ensuring pets are happy and not harmed by the summer warmth. As part of our Veterinary Assisting program at Carrington College, we recommend pet owners follow these simple but important tips to keep pets cool and comfortable when the heat is on:

  1. Keep pets hydrated and in the shade. Any time a pet is exposed to hot temperatures, it’s critical to protect them from the heat and sun. It’s equally as important to make sure they have easy access to a sufficient amount of fresh, cool water. Pet owners should always carry a bottle of water and a portable water dish when taking pets for a walk. Cloth-like water dishes are easy to keep in your pocket and can be found at your local pet supply store.
  2. Never leave pets in parked cars. Even on warm days, the air inside vehicles can become stifling very quickly and cracking the windows doesn’t help. When locked inside a car, pets can suffer irreversible brain damage or even die from heatstroke or suffocation. The good news is that this risky situation is entirely preventable. Before inviting pets along for a ride, consider what activities you’ll be doing. If you’re making just one stop that requires you to leave Fido in the backseat, rethink your decision to bring him or her along. Even with the car parked and the air conditioner on, you should never leave pets inside of an unattended vehicle.
  3. Be mindful of humidity. Panting takes moisture out of a dog’s lungs, so humidity is a major factor in overheating. The normal body temperature range for pets should fall between 101 – 102.5°F. Do not allow a dog’s temperature to exceed 104. By taking a dog’s temperature if you suspect they’re not cooling off, you’ll quickly know if there is a serious problem.
  4. Exercise pets early in the morning or late at night. These times of day offer cooler temperatures that will make walks more comfortable for both you and your pet.
  5. Understand how to keep pets cool. Dogs cool their bodies through panting, but sometimes they need extra help. In addition to shaded play areas and easy access to water, consider making ice cube treats or peanut butter pup-sicles to keep pets hydrated. Ensuring pets are properly groomed for hot weather conditions keep them more comfortable whether they’re inside or outside. Also, be mindful of how hot the pavement is during the day and try to walk them in grassy areas as much as possible. Keep in mind that if it feels hot enough to fry an egg outside, it probably is. You wouldn’t put your dog in a frying pan, so please don’t make him or her walk on hot pavement.
  6. Learn about pet breeds. During hot weather, it is especially important to take extra care of short-nosed dogs, such as Pugs, Shi Tzus, Pekingese, Bulldogs and Boxers which have shorter faces and noses. These breeds are prone to heatstroke because they aren’t able to pant as efficiently as breeds with longer faces. The same is true for certain types of short-nosed cat breeds, including Persians and exotic cats.
  7. Know the symptoms. According to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the typical signs of heatstroke are panting, high body temperature, dehydration, red mouth/eye membranes, rapid/irregular heart rate, diarrhea, weakness, looking dazed and coma. Remember that animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease.

Keep your pets happy, healthy and safe by keeping them cool. If you suspect a pet is suffering from heatstroke, take them to a licensed veterinarian immediately.

Vanessa Forbes is the National Dean of Veterinary Programs at Carrington College. Carrington College in North Phoenix offers a Certificate Degree in Veterinary Assisting. For more information on Carrington College and its Veterinary Assisting program, please visit or call 888-720-5014.

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