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Summer Safety for Pets

dog laying outside in the summer months

Officially summer will soon be here and surely, we can count on consistently warmer days from here on in. I know, each day when I get up, I still have to check the weather before deciding what to wear as it seems we have one very chilly day followed by a very warm one. I’m sure, like me, you just can’t wait for those hot and sunny beach days. But while we might love that warm weather, especially after a Canadian winter, those increased temperatures can put our furry friends, especially dogs who spend more time outdoors, at risk of overheating.

Any dog can develop heat stroke, but very young pups, older, overweight or brachycephalic dogs (those with short noses like Pugs or Shih Tzus) or those with other medical conditions are at a higher risk of overheating and may develop heat stroke more quickly and under less severe conditions.

Heat stroke can happen in our own back yards, even if our pets have access to shade. It is even more difficult for our pets when days are cold one day and very hot the next (like our recent weather) as they have no time to acclimatize to the changing temperatures.

Symptoms often start with panting and can progress to drooling and red gums. Very quickly, unless they are able to dissipate the heat, our pet’s body temperature can climb, from a normal temperature of 38.5-39.5 to a very dangerous 41 degrees or higher.

dog panting in the warm summer months

If pets continue to suffer those high temperatures and heat stroke goes unrecognized and untreated, body organs become affected. The heart and lungs start to fail and fluid builds up in the lungs. Your pet might pace and appear disoriented or even collapse. Shock can progress to seizures, coma and eventually death.

Heat can also cause other serious but less immediately life-threatening issues. Asphalt and cement can become very hot and can burn a dog’s or cat’s footpads.

dog's burnt pawpads
Dog’s burnt footpads

Sunburns occur where the hair is thinner or absent. With continued, unprotected exposure to the sun, just like in humans, skin cancer can develop. Light coated dogs and white cats are particularly at risk and bridges of noses or ear tips are particularly prone to burning.

Protect your pet

Don’t leave your pet in the car, even for a few minutes. The temperature inside can skyrocket within minutes, effectively turning your vehicle into an oven. The high heat can result in brain damage, seizures, coma and even death. No matter how much your dog loves a car ride, don’t let it be their last! Leave them home if you will be making any stops where you cannot take them with you.

Don’t exercise your dog outside once the temperature reaches 30 degrees. Not only can they get heat stroke, but the pavement can also burn their pads. If pavement is too hot for your bare feet, it is too hot for theirs. Walk your dog earlier in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are cooler.

dog sitting in a kiddie pool in shaded area

Keep your animals indoors when the temperature climbs. If they can only stay outside, provide full shade and perhaps a kiddie wading pool. If it’s really hot, adding ice to the water several times a day can be beneficial.

Consider making frozen treats or freezing treats and toys in an ice cream tub of water for your pet to enjoy when the weather is hot.

Apply a nontoxic sunblock to areas of thinner hair, such as the bridge of your dog’s nose.

Keep a closer watch on your pets during hot weather and if possible, check on them several times a day. Watch their breathing pattern. Make sure they are eating and drinking. Seek veterinary care immediately if you have any concerns. Make this summer a happy and healthy one!