The summer months can be uncomfortable for people and pets alike. As much as we welcome the sun and fun after the cold winter months, Arkansas’ humid, sauna-like atmosphere is almost unbearable during summertime, and if you’re feeling the heat, your pet is, too.
HER set out to find a list of tips and tricks to help you keep your pets healthy and cool this summer.
Both dogs and cats sweat through their paws and pant to cool themselves down, so avoid hot sidewalks and asphalt and, instead of exercising them in the heat of the day, try to walk them early in the morning or late afternoon.
The temperature inside a parked car can climb 40 degrees or more within an hour, and according to Lyndsey Windle, owner and veterinarian at Spaw City Animal Hospital, it doesn’t even have to be hot outside to be dangerous inside a vehicle. If you see an animal locked in a hot car, do not take matters into your own hands. Instead, immediately call a law enforcement agency.
All pets need clean drinking water. If you have outdoor pets, make sure the containers are kept clean and in the shade. Fill up multiple containers with water just in case one is accidentally spilled, and add some ice to the water to keep it cool.
Ivy Wood, president of the Humane Society of Garland County, suggests filling up a kiddie pool with cool, fresh water for your dog to wade in while playing outside.
“At the shelter we use kiddie pools in our play yards,” she said. “We’re lucky enough to have lots of play yards with lots of trees, so we have shade. We get kiddie pools and we fill them up with water and the dogs love them. Even if a dog is just standing in one it’s cooling its feet, which cools their body.”
Wood suggests keeping your dog cool with peanut butter Popsicles or chicken broth ice cubes.
“We have people who are nice enough to volunteer to bring us bags of ice cubes made from chicken broth,” she said. “Things like that are great treats that help cool your animals.”
Windle suggests snow cones and Popsicles, but she said to avoid grape flavors. Vanilla ice cream from Wendy’s or Sonic is a great treat, too.
“Some people might think that a doghouse provides good shade, but it really doesn’t. Even a tarp stretched out somewhere is better than a doghouse,” said Wood. “A doghouse doesn’t give any air circulation and is often hotter than just being outside. People shouldn’t think that their pet that has a doghouse to get into doesn’t need shade. If your dog is an indoor dog, keep them inside in the AC as much as possible.”
Windle said that shorter-nosed breeds require much cooler temperatures and maybe even a fan to stay cool. She added that tile floors are also nice for dogs to walk and relax on.
Even though cats are more independent than dogs and can handle hot temperatures better, they still rely on their owners to keep them safe in the heat.
“Cats cool down through their feet and they cool down from panting, you just don’t see them do it as much,” said Wood. “A cat will sleep maybe 16 hours a day and they’re pretty good about finding a shady place. Sometimes if a cat is grooming itself more than normal, that’s another cooling method for them; their saliva on their fur causes cooling. Cats are not as likely to go out and run around in the heat and overexercise themselves like a dog that gets excitable would do, but they still need shade and it’s best to try to keep them in between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.”
Humans can endure, and some even enjoy, sitting outside in the heat. Dogs, on the other hand, can be left severely dehydrated and when exposed to high temperatures over an extended period of time, their bodies may become unable to cool down. If they cannot be left indoors, be sure to bring plenty of fresh, cool water with you so your dog can stay hydrated on the go.
Symptoms of dehydration or heat exhaustion may include excessive panting and drooling, rapid pulse, lack of coordination, red gums and tongue, lethargy, dark urine, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, sunken eyes and a dry nose.
If you suspect heat exhaustion or dehydration, your dog needs to be cooled down, but not too quickly.
“They don’t need to be thrown into a bath of ice water or anything; they need to be cooled down slowly and, if they’re pretty bad, they can have an ice pack on the head and neck area,” said Wood. “If you’ve gotten all those signs then you need to give them little bits of (cool, not cold) water, maybe an ice cube to chew on, and then get them to a vet.”
“Cool them down, wet their feet, wet their hair coat with water and put a fan on them. If you don’t have a fan, you can put them in front of your refrigerator door. Cooling them down too far is also a danger,” said Windle.