As we enter the dog days of summer, it’s a great time to think about dogs, cats, and other pets, and how to prepare them for the summer’s heat.
A pet outside in hot weather is like a person outside in hot weather — only in a fur coat and barefoot, said Deann Shepherd, the director of marketing and communications at the Humane Society of Utah.
So start preparing with grooming and skin care. Don’t shave a dog or cat; fur helps prevent sunburn. But do get shedding fur off and provide pet sunblock (available online and at pet stores).
Avoid walking with pets on asphalt — its heat can burn the pads of pets’ feet.
Just as people need more water during the summer, so do pets. And just as most people don’t enjoy drinking hot water, neither do pets, Shepherd said.
Change the water in pet bowls throughout the day so it doesn’t become too warm. Consider adding ice to the water. If you’re taking a pet outside for a longer time, bring a collapsible water bowl.
Change the animal’s diet too.
Wet pet food can spoil faster in summer’s heat, so use more dry food. Freeze foods pets normally eat, or make treats like frozen meat or peanut butter popsicles. Emergency Essentials sells freeze-dried pet food that can work as a warm-weather treat.
Avoid freezing hazardous foods like onion, grapes, avocados, and chocolate. The Humane Society has a list of foods to avoid.
Learn signs of heat sickness in pets. Since dogs and cats don’t sweat, they can easily overheat, Shepherd said.
The easiest sign of heat distress is panting. That’s how many animals cool themselves. Shepherd suggested pet owners also watch for lethargy and disinterest in normal activities, excessive and ropy salivation, brick red gums or a dark mouth, fast pulse, and vomiting or diarrhea.
The fastest way to cool a pet is with cool — not cold — water. The American Red Cross says a garden hose is the easiest cooling tool.
If that’s all too hard to remember, the Red Cross offers a pet first aid app.
Pets are most likely to overheat in a car, whether the windows are open or not. Pet owners should never leave animals in a vehicle on a hot day, even for a few minutes. Shepherd recalled an experiment in which the Humane Society of Utah director sat in a car with the windows cracked open for 20 minutes on a 91-degree day. The temperature in the car hit more than 120 degrees.
“For a pet, it would have been fatal,” Shepherd said.
She said the best place for a pet on a hot day is inside in a cool room.
“If you can’t take a pet into [wherever you’re going], just leave them at home,” she said.
Finally, prepare pets to spend time outside by making sure they are tagged with microchips and keep microchip information updated. Shelters look for microchips when they are brought lost or runaway pets. The Humane Society of Utah offers free microchip clinics throughout the year, Shepherd said, and many other places offer microchip insertion for $20 to $30.
Talk to animal experts about other ways to prepare pets for summer. Reptiles will often hide under rocks or in shade; hedgehogs can be especially particular about temperatures, Shepherd said. It boils (pardon the pun) down to this: treat pets as we’d like to be treated in the heat.
“If it’s hot for us, of course it’s hot for them,” she said.