Tips to Help Pets Beat the Heat

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Those of us who live north of the equator are about to swing into summer. Because the earth’s axis is reclined 23.5 degrees, the sun will bake the northern hemisphere with its most intense rays beginning June 21st.

As the mercury climbs, we humans have the luxury of peeling off our layers exposing our unfiltered selves to whichever son god we worship. We cool off at will by taking a trip to the beach, diving into a pool, running through sprinklers or ducking into an air-conditioned mall.

But reducing core temperature is not as easy for our furry companions. The same coat that kept our golden retrievers and chow-chows warm during that bracing nor’easter becomes an all-weather albatross in the humid morass of summer. Imagine wearing a parka in 100-degree weather - and not being able to take it off!

Our best four-legged friends are not just challenged in the clothing department. Anatomy, age, overall conditioning, energy level, underlying medical conditions and hydration level all play a part in how well they tolerate the heat. Certain breeds of dog and cat are just more susceptible to heatstroke.

Summer does not have to be insufferable for our pets. Here are some tips to help keep Chloe and Casper cool:

  • Banish the Four-Wheel Ovens: NEVER leave an animal in the car, especially during the day. Even with the windows “cracked,” and parked in the shade, heat can build up exponentially in a matter of minutes inside an parked car. That convenient stop for a quick errand is not worth the life of our pet, a lifetime of guilt and legal trouble to boot. Good Samaritan laws are sweeping the country and some of us may return to find our Range Rover’s windows smashed.
  • Water, Water, Everywhere: Place water bowls strategically throughout the house so that Spike and Maggie are never more than a few paws padding to the wet bar. Deeper bowls will keep water cooler longer. Or, just drop in an ice cube or two. Refresh water regularly throughout the day.
  • Here Comes the Groom: Brushed coats can provide natural insulation from the heat. Some longer-haired pets may have their tresses trimmed for summer, especially if hair has become matted. Remember that freshly-coiffed and lighter-coated pets are more prone to sunburn and skin cancer.
  • SPF - Not for Humans Only!: Before venturing out into the swelter, slather a pet-appropriate sunscreen on vulnerable areas including the nose, tips of the ears and underbelly (remember, dogs love to flip over on their backs to “cool off”).
  • The Revolving Door: Avoid keeping pets outdoors for prolonged periods when it is hot. Ensure they have access beneath shade trees or covered patios and that they can slink back inside through the “doggy door” as they please.
  • Save the Hearty Hike: If you want to take a walk and hash things out with your pal or just stretch your legs, try doing it in an indoor mall that welcomes pets or wait until sunset.
  • No Time to Walk on Coals: Back in the 80’s, some of us hooked up with swamis and “built up our character” by walking barefoot over searing rocks (fortunately, our furry friends don’t need such character building!). Were we to walk on our hands instead of shod feet, we would understand just how hot the dark pavement can get at high noon.
  • Know the Signs and What to Do: Panting, purple tongue, sweaty paws, trouble swallowing, disorientation and an overall appearance of distress are among the common signs of heatstroke. Remove pets from heat immediately (yes, even by smashing that Range Rover window) and retreat to a cool space. Apply a cold, wet washcloth to the back of the head and neck, remove, fan off the area and repeat. Cold compresses between the hind legs and belly help, too. Take them to the vet immediately.

A pet for all reasons should be safe in all seasons - for many seasons to come.