Keep Your Pets Safe and Cool This Summer

| June 21, 2024

Summer is officially here! As we get excited for longer, brighter days, we also must keep in mind the safety and comfort level of our pets during the summer months. While summer brings opportunities for outdoor adventures and fun in the sun, it also poses potential risks. Here are some essential tips to keep your pets safe and cool this summer. 

Hydration is Key

Just like humans, pets need plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially in hot weather. Ensure your pet has access to fresh, clean water always, whether indoors or outdoors. When on-the-go, carry a portable water bowl and offer frequent water breaks to prevent dehydration. 

Avoid Overexertion

Limit outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day, typically between 10 :00am and 4:00pm. Take your pet out during the cooler mornings or evenings to prevent overheating and exhaustion. Be mindful of signs of heatstroke, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy. 

Know the Signs of Heatstroke and How to React

If you plan on being outdoors with your dog on a hot day, make sure you know the signs of heat stroke. This is especially true if you have a puppy or a senior dog, or if your pets aren’t used to exercising for long periods of time. You have to be even more careful if your dog has a respiratory or a heart problem. When in doubt, wait until the temperature cools off a bit before you take your dog out for a walk.   

Watch for the signs and symptoms of heat stroke—excessive panting, muscle twitching, an anxious or dazed look, vomiting, lethargy, increased drooling, and diarrhea (from the Royal Veterinary College). 

Heat stroke is an emergency. Move your pet to a cool and shaded area right away. We recommend “cool first, transport second”.  Provide them with cool, not freezing cold, water to drink. Wet their coat with cool water and put a fan on them (if available). Take them to your veterinarian immediately. Severe untreated heat stroke can be fatal.   

Different Breeds React to Heat Differently

Brachycephalic animals, or animals with flat faces such as Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.  

Protect Those Paws

Hot pavement, asphalt, and sand can quickly heat up and burn your pet’s sensitive paw pads. Before heading out for a walk, test the ground temperature with the back of your hand. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet. Opt for walking on grassy or shaded areas or consider using protective booties to shield your pet’s paws from burns. 

Watch Out for Water Hazards

While it’s tempting to take a dip in the pool or enjoy a day at the beach with your pet, always supervise them around water. Not all dogs are natural swimmers, and even experienced swimmers can tire easily. Invest in a life jacket for your pet if you plan on boating or swimming, and never leave them unattended near bodies of water. 

Beware of Pests and Parasites

Summer brings out a variety of pests, including fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and bees, which can pose health risks to your pet. Ensure your pet is up-to-date on flea and tick preventatives and consider using pet-safe mosquito repellents. Check your pet regularly for ticks and remove them promptly to prevent the transmission of diseases. 

Toronto Humane Society’s Public Veterinary Services provides tick preventatives. Click here to book an appointment.  

Practice Sun Safety

Did you know that pets are susceptible to sunburn? It is true, in fact, pets with light-coloured fur or thin coats are especially susceptible to sunburn. Apply pet-safe sunscreen to exposed areas such as the nose, ears, and belly to protect against harmful UV rays. Sunscreens that are formulated for dogs should not contain zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), as these ingredients are toxic to dogs if ingested, and dogs will often lick their skin and accidentally ingest the sunscreen. It’s also a good idea to look for a waterproof, unscented dog sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 (from the American Kennel Club). 

Never Leave Your Pet Alone in a Hot Car

Leaving your pet unattended in a parked car, even for a few minutes, can be life-threatening. On a warm day, the temperature inside a car can soar to dangerous levels within minutes, leading to heatstroke and death. If you need to run errands, leave your pet at home where they’ll be safe and comfortable. 

If you see a pet unattended in a hot car, do not panic. Instead, follow these steps:   

  1. Call 1-833-9ANIMAL (1-833-926-4625) or call the local police. 
  2. In the meantime, record the time you found the dog and take down the license plate and car information. You might need these details. Then try to locate the owner. Remain calm. Being confrontational does not help anyone, including the animal. 
  3. Keep calm and assess the situation. Check for signs of overheating—excessive panting, glazed eyes, fatigue, a dazed look (like they appear to be “out of it”), or vomiting. If the animal is unresponsive to your approach, they could be suffering from heatstroke.   

Save the Shave

Feel free to trim longer hair on your dog, but never shave your dog.  The layers of dogs’ coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. And be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.  

Lawn Care

Commonly used rodenticides and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. Keep citronella candles, tiki torch products, and insect coils out of pets’ reach as well. Call your veterinarian if you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous substance.  

Be Prepared for Emergencies

Despite our best efforts, accidents and emergencies can still occur. Familiarize yourself with the signs of heatstroke, dehydration, and other heat-related illnesses, and know what to do if your pet requires emergency care. Keep the contact information for your veterinarian and an emergency veterinary clinic handy and have a pet first aid kit readily available.