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Rebecca Stanley

Hot summer months can be uncomfortable—even dangerous—especially for pets. Rising temperatures, thick humidity are hard to deal with, but things really get tough in areas that are hit with intense heat and storm-caused power outages, sometimes with tragic results. Summer insect pests also are a challenge for our furry friends.

Keep your pets safe and cool this summer. Here are tips for helping everyone in your family stay healthy while hot.

Practice basic summer safety

Never leave your pets in a parked car

Not even for a second! Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. Would you put your beloved in an oven? On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle will rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die. Leaving pets locked in cars is never safe. But when the weather gets warmer, it can be deadly. Pledge to never leave your pet in a hot car.

Watch the Humidity

"It's important to remember that it's not just the ambient temperature, but also the humidity that can affect your pet," says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly."

Taking a dog's temperature will quickly tell you if there is a serious problem. Dogs' temperatures should not reach over 104 degrees. If your dog's temperature is higher, follow the instructions below for treating heat stroke.

Limit Exercise

As at all times of the year, your dog should be wearing a collar and tag with your name and address on it. It’s also a good idea to put both your home and mobile phone number on the tag so you can be contacted immediately if your dog wanders off.

Use common sense when exercising your pet. Adjust the intensity and duration of your pet's activity according to the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with white-colored ears, who are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, who typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet's paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating.

Fun Summer Exercises


  • Walk your dog at the cooler times of the day, either first thing in the morning or early evening

  • Dogs’ paw pads can burn on hot pavements. As a general rule, if it’s too hot for your hand it’s too hot for their paws.

  • If it’s too hot for the usual long walk, keep your dog mentally stimulated by doing some brain games instead. Refresh their basic training with some sits and stays, or teach them new tricks. 


  • Swimming is excellent exercise for dogs and a great exercise alternative to walking in the summer heat. Swimming is a great way to keep dogs cool, but stay safe. Remember that not all dogs like to swim, so if yours doesn’t, do not force them to and never throw a dog into water.

  • Be wary of tides at the beach

  • Drinking salt water is likely to make your dog sick and isn’t very good for them. Bring fresh water with you to the beach.

  • Wash salt and sand off your dog’s coat after swimming to prevent it drying and irritating their skin

  • Be careful to avoid heatstroke on the beach

  • Watch out for currents in rivers

  • Check freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds and canals to make sure they are clean before letting your dog dive in. Some types of algae, including blue-green algae, are toxic to dogs. If your dog swims in algae-contaminated water, contact your vet immediately.

  • Dogs can and do drown in rivers and the sea. If your dog has inhaled water, contact your vet, as they can suffer complications.

  • Sadly, each year dog owners drown trying to rescue their pets. Don’t risk dangerous situations.

Water intoxication: Top five things to look out for!
What is water intoxication?

Water intoxication is when dogs swallow too much water in a short space of time. It’s rare, but this condition can lead to brain damage and, in extreme circumstances, can be fatal.

Dogs can sometimes swallow too much water when they are swimming, so it’s key that you keep an eye on them when you’re treating them to a cool off.

Five signs that your dog may have water intoxication
  • Vomiting

  • Loss of coordination (this can include falling over or swaying)

  • Bloating

  • Tiredness

  • Pale gums

If your dog starts to struggle with their breathing or loses consciousness after playing in the water, call your vet immediately.

How to stop your dog getting water intoxication
  • Monitor your dog carefully while they're playing in the water. If they look like they are swallowing a lot of water, take them out and allow them to relax.

  • Limit the amount of time dogs spend playing in the water to 10 minutes, allowing them to go to the toilet in between swimming sessions and catch their breath

  • Always carry fresh drinking water with you when at the beach. Swallowing a lot of salt water can lead to salt poisoning which has the same symptoms as water intoxication.


Beating the Heat

Don't rely on a fan

Pets respond differently to heat than humans do. (Dogs, for instance, sweat primarily through their feet.) And fans don't cool off pets as effectively as they do people.

Provide ample shade and water

Any time your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don't obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.

Cool your pet inside and out

Whip up a batch of quick and easy DIY pupsicles for dogs. And always provide water, whether your pets are inside or out with you.

Keep your pet from overheating indoors or out with a cooling body wrap, vest or mat. Soak these products in cool water, and they'll stay cool (but usually dry) for up to three days. If your dog doesn't find baths stressful, see if they enjoy a cooling soak.

Watch for signs of heatstroke

Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Signs of heatstroke in dogs include collapse, excessive panting, and dribbling. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure and unconsciousness.

If you suspect your pet is suffering from the condition, move them to a cool place, in the shade or preferably with a air conditioning, apply ice packs or cold towels to their head, neck and chest and wet their coat with cool - not freezing - water. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Contact your vet immediately.

Once a dog shows signs of heatstroke the damage is often already done, which is why it’s so important to prevent it.

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. Some breeds of dogs—like boxers, pugs, shih tzus and other dogs and cats with short muzzles—will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.

Prepare for power outages

Before a summer storm takes out the power in your home, create a disaster plan to keep your pets safe from heat stroke and other temperature-related trouble.

Summer skin and coat

Pale-colored dogs are vulnerable to sunburn, particularly on their ears, noses and sparsely haired areas. Sun damage can lead to skin cancer which may require extensive surgery – even amputation in severe cases. Sunlight can also make existing skin conditions worse, particularly if your dog has allergies. Take care of dogs with sensitive skin and prevent sunburn.

The best prevention is to keep your dog indoors when the sun is strongest, between 11.00am and 3.00pm. Alternatively, pop a T-shirt on your dog and cover vulnerable areas to protect them. You can also apply a non-toxic waterproof human sunblock or one specifically made for pets. If your dog’s skin looks sore, crusty or scaly, call your vet.

Take care of your dog’s delicate paws. If the pavement is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for their paw pads too. Dog booties can be bought from pet shops and online, or walk your dog at cooler times of the day to prevent their paws burning.

Grooming your dog is important in the summer months, especially for long haired breeds, to get rid of matted fur and tangles. A tangle-free coat will protect your pet’s delicate skin and help to keep them cool. Extreme cases of a pet’s dirty and matted coat may attract flies that lay their eggs (which become maggots.) Some breeds may need their coats trimmed to keep them comfortable. Ask a professional groomer for advice.

If your dog swims or paddles in the sea to keep cool, remember to rinse the salt water and sand from your dog’s coat after to avoid drying out and irritating their skin. 

Creepy Crawlies Of Summer

Pests that love to bite your dog come out in their droves in summer. Fleas and ticks thrive in the heat and can be a real nuisance to your furry friend.


 Flea bites are annoying and itchy for most dogs, but if your dog is allergic to them then they can cause real discomfort and severe scratching, which can become infected.

Regular flea treatment is the only way to prevent these little critters – a one-off application won’t be enough. The most effective treatments come from your vet, so ask them for a recommendation.

If your dog has fleas you will need to treat your home as well to get rid of the eggs.


Ticks are spider-like, egg-shaped creepy crawlies that are common outdoors.

Ticks carry diseases, so it’s important to remove any that attach themselves to your dog. This can be tricky, as you need to be careful not to squeeze the tick’s body, or allow its head to get stuck inside your dog. Twisting them off your dog is the best removal method, and pet shops sell handy tick-removal devices to make this easier. Ask your vet for advice.

A few dogs catch Lyme disease annually in the US, following a tick bite, and people can get the disease too. Lyme disease is serious, so if you live in an area with a deer or sheep population you should consider tick treatment for your dog, which should kill the tick before they can transmit the disease.

If you are bitten by a tick, contact your doctor. Wearing trousers and long sleeves when walking through tick-infested areas will help prevent bites.

Bees and wasps

Dogs love to chase buzzing insects, but getting too close can be dangerous.

Most insect stings will simply cause your dog pain and irritation, sometimes multiple stings can be fatal.

Dogs are also at risk when they snap at bees and wasps because this makes them more likely to be stung in the mouth or throat. Stings in these areas are hazardous because any swelling can block your pet’s airway.

Some dogs are allergic to bee and wasp stings, so watch out for signs of allergic reaction, including swelling and difficulty breathing. If you think your dog has been stung multiple times, or is having an allergic reaction, take them to a vet straight away.


There are several venomous snakes in the US, and while they tend to stay out of the way of humans and dogs, your pet may encounter one while exploring.

Snakes can be dangerous to dogs if disturbed because they bite when threatened.

If you think your dog has been bitten by a poisonous snake, call your vet straight away. Dogs are likely to survive bites if they are treated quickly. If you are able to, carry your dog rather than letting them walk to stop the venom spreading.