Saturday, July 6, 2013

Keep Cool Through the Dog Days of Summer

It's another hot and humid day here in Southern Pennsylvania! A great opportunity to remind everyone to keep cool and stay safe.

For our pets there are some quick tips to keeping your kids healthy and out of the veterinary hospital!

Here are my pet tips:

1. Remember that pets have a limited ability to remove excess heat.

Pets have a limited ability to remove excess heat. To cool off they will pant.

When a pet gets hot they will start to slow down. The key is to not encourage them to overheat once they start to get hot. For puppies, thick bodied dogs, and brachycephalic dogs (short nosed dogs, like bulldogs) if they start to get hot they have a limited ability to cool down even when they stop their activity. For these dogs if they start to look hot it is time to get proactive and prepare for heat intolerance, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Get to an emergency room if your dog appears to be hot and heading into heat exhaustion.

A pet heading into heat exhaustion is panting rapidly and slowing down their responsiveness to the world around them. They will pant, sit down, then lie down, then look lethargic. If you see this take their temperature! If it is greater than 103 degrees place them in a wet towel and drive immediately to the emergency room! I have seen many dogs arrive at our clinic at 103 degrees and even with aggressive immediate emergency care their internal temperature has risen to 105 degrees within minutes!

2. Hot Cars Are Dangerous, and Can Kill. 

In my opinion this is the most under estimated potential cause of death to dogs in the summer!

Never, ever leave your pet in a car. If you do need to bring your pet with you then have someone stay in the car with them! It is almost impossible for you to understand how hot it gets and how fast it gets there. But can you imagine anything worse than suffocating in an inferno? Never risk it. Leave your pet at home in the A/C.

Poster For Caring For Pets In Hot Weather

3. Give pets free access to a shady cool spot.

Most pets that have free access to a quiet shady cool spot will seek it out on the hot days.

Can you see Charlie?

Dense foliage provides an umbrella of shade that keeps the ground moist and is also a safe place to rest.

A gerbi-gloo.

4. Keep lots of Fresh Water Available.

The most vital part of avoiding dehydration is adequate water intake. You can encourage drinking by providing a big clean bowl of fresh water, or a fountain. In the summer the bowl should be cleaned and refilled daily. This should also be kept in the shade.

5. Keep your pet well groomed. 

A matted coat cannot breathe and creates an environment where hot spots and skin infections can start. Worse, yet, if the coat is matted the flies will find the infection, bite to create a wound, and before you know it your pet will have maggots. (Bleck!)

This is my Savannah with her summer shave down.

6. Keep Summer Activities Quiet and Calm in the Heat of the Day.

A cool brick walkway.
A few things to mention about cats in the hot summer.
Outside cats will find a small dark quiet place, and sleep through the heat of the day. There is great concern for overheating in cats that are in enclosed places or if they are sick or elderly.

Inside cats will seek a fan, or A/C to keep cool.

A cat that is over heated will become quiet, still, and pant. Open mouth breathing in cats occurs when they are stressed or too hot. If a cat gets too hot they should be brought to an emergency hospital. It is imperative to take their temperature. An overheated pet can be cooled by placing them in cool (not cold!) water, shaving their armpits and ventrum, or immersing them in a cool bath..but as we all know, not too many cats like water, and a hot pet should not be stressed unnecessarily.

A comfy chair and a relaxed pup.

These are my pups, in our cool, dark, breezy hallway.

Or take a mid-afternoon nap,,in the A/C, of course.

 7. Let Your Pet Find a Spot They are Comfortable In.

"Oh, the tiles are sooo cool!" Zzzzzz.

My little Oriole, on her perch, and very obviously relaxed.

Little Tootsie, who never shies from a snooze on the tiles to stay cool.Tootsie's story.

Wren loves our wood floors to stretch out on.

Jekyl and Charlie in the cool kitchen.

Puppies tend to be a little warmer than adult dogs.
So if they get hot they will seek a cool place.
Our clinic ceramic tiles hit the hot spot!

8. Adjust Summertime Activities.

Exercise your pet in the very early morning and late evening when the temperature is cooler and the humidity is lower. Do not over exert your pet regardless of time of day.

Try a walk in the stream, or a visit to the lake, or the ocean. If water is not in your locale then try a kids pool, a sprinkler, or a hose! Lots of pets love the water.

Minnie in her pool.

A late afternoon stroll in the pond and stream.

Nothing beats the beach during the steamy days of summer!

For more information on overheating in pets.

Any sick, old, or immune compromised pet should be kept indoors and avoid the stress that a hot day causes.

There are a few products available to help keep pets cool.

Water cooled blankets.

Water cooled jackets.

If you have any questions, or comments, or things to add to this blog please leave me a comment. Or you can find me @pawbly on Twitter, or anytime at, where pet questions are answered for free by any of our talented group.

Have a wonderful and safe summer everyone!


  1. Per #5: I thought I read that you shouldn't shave your pet in summer because it can cause sunburn and skin cancer because their skin is no longer protected by their fur. Keeping a pet well-brushed helps air flow through the fur better, which is what really helps cool a pet, it what I read.

  2. There is some debate about shaving a pet. The conflict centers around those dogs with an undercoat, pigmented skin, and fair skinned pets.
    The dogs with undercoats use this as an insulation layer. The pigmented pets can actually attract more sun due to the dark skin, and the fair skinned pets can actually get sunburned when you remove the fur. So, yes, it is a debatable topic.
    For my dog, shaving her down helped her feel cooler and more comfortable, and her thick coat was heavy and hot. But we were always very careful to avoid sun exposure and overheating.