Wheaton_iStock_000040471596_LargeWith blue skies for miles and temperatures perfect for outdoor fun, it makes sense that we want to spend as much time outdoors with our pets as possible. After months of gray and cold, the urge to grab a Frisbee or hit the open road for an epic road trip is compelling.

It’s also true that, with the arrival of spring, many pet owners let their pets outdoors, whether to hang out in the backyard or roam the neighborhood (as our feline friends are so inclined to do). Unfortunately, pet owners make the mistake of thinking their pets are more prepared for hot weather than they actually are.

Because our cats and dogs cannot cool off as efficiently as we can, they are prone to dehydration and heat stroke. Ultimately, they suffer when left outdoors during high temperatures or for lengthy periods of time, which can lead to a health emergency. This seems obvious but The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital treat plenty of heat-related cases each summer.

Summer Safety Tips

While it’s certainly tempting to spend the days frolicking outdoors, be aware of the hidden dangers of heat and a high UV index to your pet. To keep your fur friend protected from the harsh urban summer, practice these simple safety tips.

  • Hydration is so important and fresh water is the best defense against the heat, so keep your pet’s water bowl full (including outdoor bowls) and remember to bring extra water with you on road trips and walks.
  • Sunburn can threaten the comfort and safety of our dogs, especially light colored and short-haired pups – consider purchasing a sun suit or simply minimize the time spent outdoors, under the sun’s rays.
  • Exercise is important, but in the middle of the afternoon, when the temps reach the mid-90s, it can be dangerous. Opt for early mornings or late evenings to take those walks to the park.
  • While festivals and outdoor events can be a blast for us, they are not great choices for our pets. Along with the noise factor, many such events offer limited shade and can cause our pets to quickly become frightened, hot, and dehydrated.
  • Before you hit the pavement with your best canine, check the surface temperature by placing your palm on the asphalt/concrete. If it feels hot to you, wait until the evening hours.
  • Some dogs love to cool off by splashing around in the sprinkler or a shallow kiddie pool (just remember to supervise).
  • Limit the amount of time your pet is outdoors, and bring him or her in when the thermometer reaches 90 degrees and above.
  • Consider adding some ice cubes to your pet’s water bowl to encourage hydration.
  • Feed your pet cool or frozen treats, especially those high in water content such as cool melon or cucumber, broth popsicles or doggie ice cream.
  • And, it goes without saying, but we will say it again: never leave your pet in a parked car (as in, ever)!
  • Along with these cooling tips for hot summer days, it is important to know the signs of dehydration. If dehydration is left unnoticed, your pet can quickly move into heat stroke, so be aware of the following signs:

  • Gums will feel “tacky” to the touch
  • Skin of neck region, when stretched, is slow to return to its natural position
  • Increased panting
  • Lethargy
  • Eyes appear sunken
  • If you notice dehydration in your pet, get him to a cool, shaded or indoor area right away and offer cool water and perhaps a cool bath or shower. If panting increases and your pet will not drink and/or acts listless or disoriented, he or she may be experiencing heat stroke. Consider this an emergency situation and seek veterinary care immediately.

    Although these situations may seem scary, if you keep your pet hydrated and make wise choices about when to play outdoors, these perils can be avoided. With a bit of sun savvy, you and your pet can enjoy the summertime festivities while avoiding the urban sizzle.