Summer Topics: Summer Heat Safety

Summer Safety Tips for your Pets

Help Your Pet Stay Safe in the Summer Heat

Anyone who has stepped outside can tell you that Summer is here and with a vengeance!  While Southern California residents are used to warm summers, this year promises to be one of the warmest on record.  At AVC our primary mission is to educate clients and provide them with information that helps pets live longer and happier lives. This mission includes helping clients keep their pets safe during the hot summer months.

For humans, summer often means road trips, camping, sunny walks, and hiking.  For our pets however, those same activities can be harmful or even fatal if we do not take precautions.  Here are some tips to help keep your pet safe this summer:

Leave Your Pet at Home:

While pets love to spend time with us, unless your dog is a service dog, they have no reason to join us while running errands, such as going to the store, etc.  Remember that many places, such as the grocery store and indoor restaurants only allow certified service animals inside.  Leaving your pet unattended in your car while you run errands on a warm day is extremely dangerous and can even be fatal.  The temperature inside your car climb almost 20º F in just 10 minutes, meaning that after only 30 minutes, the temperature inside your car could climb 30º F or more! “Cracking” a window or leaving water does not offer sufficient cooling to mitigate danger to your pet.  Additionally, while we think of summer as our “warm” season, danger to pets can be year-round in Southern California as our outside temperatures are often in the 70s, even in the winter. Finally,remember that leaving a pet in a car unattended is illegal, if doing so would endanger their health or well-being.  

ASPCA Infographic Pets and Car Heat

Consider Your Pet:
The summer months can be brutal to your dog.  Dogs are more susceptible to heatstroke than humans for several reasons.  One reason is that your dog is covered in fur, even though it may be short in some breeds.  This makes them heat up faster and prevents this heat from escaping. Additionally, unlike humans, dogs only have sweat glands on their feet not over their body.  They rely on primarily on panting, a method of breathing out excess heat, to cool down their bodies.  This process is simply not as effective as sweating, meaning that dogs are not as effective at cooling their bodies on a hot day as their human owners.  While excessive heat is dangerous to ALL dogs, some breeds are more susceptible to the heat than others.  Dogs with thick double-coats have a harder time beating the heat, and dogs with short muzzles (e.g., Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers) have smaller airways and are therefore less effective at panting out hot air.  Considerations for Cats: While few people are taking their feline friends for a jog, many owners allow their cats to explore the outside during the day.  To make it easier for these kitties to keep comfortable, make sure they have access to ample shaded shelter and have fresh, cool water accessible at all times.

Exercise Smart:

Our pets LOVE to get into the outdoors to play and explore.  During summer months however, the heat can make their outdoor activities dangerous.  Remember that not all dogs are good at self-regulating and may continue to run and pay even when they are dangerously overheated, so it is up to us to help prevent this.  If you take your pet out for exercise or to play with friends, try to do so early in the morning, before the heat of the day strikes.  Regardless of time of day, make sure your pet always has water available and give them breaks from exercise to give them time to cool down.

A Note on Brachycephalic Breeds: Our flat-faced pups such as French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, and similar breeds, are at greater risk when it is warm.  Because of their facial shape and the structure of their airway, they do not intake and output air efficiently.  This can result in difficulties thermoregulating, resulting in heat exhaustion.  For these breeds it is essential that you exercise while temperatures are cool. Offer many breaks and make sure cool water is always available.

Pay Attention:
Even when the heat is not excessive, heat-related damage to dogs’ paws is a common problem for dogs in the summer.  Asphalt and hiking trails can quickly heat up even before the air feels excessively warm.  This hot surface can easily burn your dog’s feet resulting in pain, inflammation, and even blisters.  If you cannot place your hand on the ground for at least 5 seconds, the ground is too hot and you should not walk your dog on that surface.  Try to stay in the shade, avoid blacktop or asphalt, and limit walks and exercise to mornings or evenings, when the ground is not as hot. 

All pet owners should know the signs of heat stroke and heat-related injury.  While this can occur more quickly in flat-nosed or thick coated breeds, it poses a risk to any dog. Symptoms of heatstroke in dogs may include heavy panting, drooling, hyperventilation, bright red gums, warm dry skin, rapid heartbeat, glazed eyes, difficulty walking, and fever.  In extreme cases, seizures, diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, and collapse can occur.  Heat stroke/heat exhaustion is ALWAYS considered a veterinary emergency and should be treated as such.  In the event of a heat-related injury, get your pet under shade or into a house and contact your nearest veterinarian immediately – do NOT attempt to treat at home. 

If you have any questions regarding how to keep your pet safe this summer, or any other season, please do not hesitate to contact the staff at Advanced Veterinary Care.  Remember that at AVC, our first line of defense is always prevention.


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