Pet parents know that during the heat of the summer months, it’s crucial to pay attention to your pets. The hot, sticky temperatures that come during the ‘Dog Days of Summer’ also bring an increased risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, so emphasizing summer pet safety is key.
Dogs can only cool themselves through panting, meaning that settling them in front of a fan will not have the same cooling effect on them as it will on you. Cats can provide a human-like sweating effect by licking their coat, but a cool, shaded, or air-conditioned room is the best option to keep your pets safe and happy.
If you’re looking for a solution to make the most of the summer while making pet safety a top priority, check out these summer pet safety tips.
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10 Tips for Summer Pet Safety
1. Never Leave a Pet in a Car
If you are planning on going out and running errands, leave your pet safely at home. During the summer months, your car will heat up to unbearable temperatures quickly, even with a window cracked. This can lead to serious health complications including loss of consciousness, organ failure, swelling of the brain, and loss of life. Even if it feels ‘coolish’ outdoors, the temperatures in your vehicle are still unsafe.
For those that do plan on traveling with a pet during the summer months, have a plan to keep your pet safe if you need to make a restroom break along the way.
If you are traveling with someone else, take turns going in while one person remains in the vehicle with the air conditioning running for your pet.
If you are solo, you need to find a way to take your pet in with you. One option is to stop at pet stores and pet friendly stores. Another is to have a pet carrier or pet stroller on had to bring your pet inside roadside rest stops.
If you stumble across a pet in a hot car, there are some legal ways you can help.
In addition to the dangers of hot cars, there is also the risk of someone breaking into your car and stealing your pet while he or she is left unattended.
2. Avoid Festivals, Fairs, Public Markets, and Other Public Events
As tempting as it may be to bring your dog or cat along for your local summer festivals and events, the best choice that you can make for your pet’s safety is to leave them at home. Between the noises, the unfamiliar scents, the crowds, and the hot pavement or sidewalks, you will be doing your pet more harm than good by bringing them along.
If you want to show off your pet to your friends, stick with the smartphone full of pet photos that most pet parents have on hand.
3. Consider Sunscreen and Sunburns
If you are going to be spending time outdoors with your pet, consider purchasing sunscreen to keep them safe from the sun’s dangerous UV rays. Light-colored dogs and cats or those with incredibly short coats are prone to sunburns, just as their humans are. They are also at risk of developing skin cancer if you don’t take precautions to keep them safe.
Ask your veterinarian for advice on pet-safe, non-toxic sunscreens.
4. Seek Shade When Outdoors
In addition to using sunscreen, you can protect your pet from the sun by finding shade as often as possible. When on walks, switch to the shady side of the sidewalk.
If you are going to be spending time outdoors somewhere where there is no shade readily available, consider bringing along a beach umbrella, tent, awning, or sun shelter to create your own shade.
5. Limit Physical Activity on Hot Days
Do you have a high-energy dog or cat that enjoys playing outdoors? If you know that your dog will chase a ball or a frisbee until they drop or you cat will walk or hike for hours, this is a tip that you should consider!
Dehydration and heatstroke are real possibilities during a hot, humid summer day, even in the safety of your own backyard. Limit the high-energy activities to the cooler morning or evening hours. Pets that are brachycephalic, those with flat-shaped faces such as Pugs, Pekingese, or Persian cats, have a harder time cooling themselves by panting. Additional precautions need to be taken to keep these breeds cool in the hot summer months.
6. Know the Warning Signs of Dehydration
Make sure that your pet’s water dish is always full of water. Don’t let it get to the point where the dish is empty and you fill it, leading to your pet overindulging. This can lead to bloat and an emergency trip to see the vet. Warning signs of dehydration in pets include dry and pale gums, excessive drooling, loss of skin elasticity, and acting lethargic.
If you take your pet for a walk, visit the beach, or head out on the hiking trails, make sure you bring a bowl and fresh water. Make frequent stops to give your pet a sip or two, preventing them from drinking too much at any one time.
7. Be Cautious of Pesticides
During the warmer months, you may find yourself out and enjoying the beautiful weather by taking more walks. Use caution when you’re walking your pet in unfamiliar territory. There are some communities that still use non-pet-friendly pesticides and many of those chemicals have a sweet flavor that is enticing to your pet.
If your pet walks in pesticide-treated grass then licks their fur or feet, they could be ingesting poisons. It’s always best to know where you’re walking your pet before you set out and keep an eye out for small lawn flags signaling pesticide application during your journey.
8. Stick to the Cool Walking Hours
Another point to consider when planning your walks is the time that you are heading out. During the summer months, surfaces such as pavement, cement, and asphalt can become dangerously hot. These surfaces absorb and retain the summer heat, causing the temperatures to rise far beyond that of the surrounding air. Walking on these hot surfaces could lead to heat blisters and burns on your pet’s delicate paw pads. Instead, plan your walks for the early mornings and cooler evenings.
If you do need to head out with your pet during the warmer hours of the day, take precautions to protect their paws. If possible, carry your pet when navigating hot surfaces. Another option would be to outfit your pet with breathable, summer-friendly paw booties.
9. Avoid Shaving Long Fur
If you have a dog or cat with long fur or a double coat, you may be worried that all the extra fur is going to leave them feeling overheated. Even though it may be tempting, you shouldn’t give in to the urge to shave your pet’s long fur off for the summer. Your pet’s hair acts as a protective layer.
Instead, brush them regularly to remove excess fur from their natural seasonal shedding and focus on giving them access to a cool space to relax.
10. Protect Against Fleas, Ticks and Other Parasites
During the summer months, your pets may encounter unwanted parasites while they are out and about. To keep your pet safe from unwanted hitchhikers, you should consider using the appropriate preventative medications. Contact your vet to discuss the available options and which would be best for your pet’s needs.
Even with the necessary preventatives, your pet may encounter a tick. To reduce your pet’s chances of dealing with complications such as Lyme disease, take the time to do a full check of your pet’s body for ticks after spending time outdoors. Focus largely on the vulnerable areas including the head, ears, eyelids, under the collar, between the toes, groin, armpits, and tail. Learn how to remove a tick safely and consider carrying a tick key with you.
What do you do to keep your pets cool, happy, and healthy during the summer months? Feel free to share your summer pet safety tips in the comments!
About the Author: Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.