7 safety tips that could save your pet’s life this summer

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Have you seen the terrifying video of the NFL player in a hot car that went viral last summer?

Even if you’ve already watched it, it’s worth a replay to remind yourself how important it is to keep your animals safe in the heat.

...And how fast things can get dangerous.

We’re definitely not Negative Nancies at Dooli®, but we are Realistic Ritas. ( ← Is that a thing?)

And the truth is, it’s better to be safe and prepared...than sorry. There are actually a lot of summer safety pet tips that most people would never even think of, and a couple that are downright counterintuitive.

Take a few minutes to bone up on your summertime pet safety. It could very literally save a life.

The easiest, most straightforward summertime safety rule

Never leave pets in a parked car in the summertime. (Nope, not even with the windows cracked.)  

Dogs and cats don’t sweat (apart from a little bit from their paws). Once temperatures get above 90 degrees — which can happen in seconds-to-minutes in a parked car — they become overheated and struggle to cool off. This can lead to heat stroke, which can be deadly.

There’s really not much gray area when it comes to advice from experts here. In summer months, just don’t leave your animal in the car...even for a “hot” minute.

Keep them hydrated (plus two surprising tidbits)

One of the ways dogs and cats cool themselves down is by drinking water. But in hotter months, animals also lose more water, through (warning: this is kinda gross) their saliva.

Dogs create excess saliva in hot weather because it helps dissipate heat better than just panting alone. Cats lick themselves more in the summer because it produces a cooling sensation similar to sweating in humans as it evaporates.

Producing excess saliva can dehydrate your animals. So make sure there’s plenty of fresh water available all day long.

Another way to keep your pet well-hydrated in the summer months is by adding wet food to their diets. The additional moisture helps with hydration, which can be beneficial to maintaining a healthy body temperature.

Exercise strategically

Because they can’t sweat, you need to be extra careful about exercising with your pet in the summertime. They’ll get overheated much faster, which can be extremely dangerous.

Take long walks during the early morning or late evening hours, when it’s cooled down outside. If you do go for a walk during a day, make sure to bring a water bottle and dish (here’s one we love!) Choose a route that has lots of shady options and stop often to let your pet cool down.

Summer months can be a great time to send your pet to daycare, if that’s your thing! This gives animals a chance to play and get exercise in a safer way than going on long walks in the scorching sun.

Get on a flea and tick prevention plan

As it gets warmer outside, we want to be outside more often with pets. But don’t forget that in addition to long days and warm temps, summer also brings with it flea and tick season. If your pet isn’t on a pest preventative, now might be a good time to consider one!

Topical treatments like Frontline are popular options. If you don’t like applying liquid to your animal’s neck, you can try a flea and tick collar as an alternative.

While most vets are iffy on alternative treatments, I have a friend who swears by brewer’s yeast tablets for flea and tick prevention. (Click here for more info on brewers yeast for pets.) Always check with your vet (and your pet mama gut!) before starting any treatment, including “natural” ones.

Keep it cool and shady...even when you’re gone

It’s common to adjust the thermostat when you leave for work in the morning. (Energy savings and green living FTW!) But be especially mindful of your pets’ temperature needs in the summer months.

Vetstreet.com recommends keeping your home at a kinda-warm-but-still-safe temperature of 76 degrees during the day for your pets.

Also, never underestimate the power of shade. Make sure your pet has access to darker areas or cool floor surfaces like tile or concrete to sleep on during the day. Keep the curtains closed to keep our warm sunny rays.

Wise up on your pet’s unique needs

Different animals have different needs in hot weather.

A family friend has an English bulldog, a breed that is notorious for needing annoyingly specific living conditions. But they’re SO cute, so I guess it’s worth it. :)

She actually had to get air conditioning installed in her house after getting the dog because the vet told her the dog’s health would be compromised if temperatures got too high.

Check with your vet or take to the interwebs to learn how your pet’s uniqueness (breed, coloring, weight, age, etc.) might react in the heat.

If your dog is overweight, black in color, or older, he may become hotter than the average animal in the summertime. Snub-nose breeds (like bulldogs) have specific temperature needs that need to be considered. Some coats would benefit from a super short haircut in the summer.

Work with your dog’s unique features to make hot temperatures more comfortable (and safe).

Know the warning signs of heat stroke

Sometimes, even our best intentions won’t keep our pets safe. Familiarize yourself with the hot weather warning signs and keep a close eye on your buddy this summer. If you see any of these symptoms after your pet has been in the heat, get your pet to the vet ASAP! You could save his/her life.

Heat stroke symptoms:

  • Frantic panting (fully open mouth with tongue hanging out the side)
  • Staggering or stupor
  • Collapsing
  • Irregular or very fast heartbeat
  • Seizure
  • Severe lethargy
  • Diarrhea, especially bloody stools

In case of emergency...

If you notice the symptoms above, call your vet immediately. In the meantime, here are a few ways you can try and reduce your pet’s temperature:

Get to a cool spot pronto. Get your pet into the shade, a cool room, on a cool surface...or if none of those is an option, at least fan some cool air his way.

Offer cool (not cold) drinking water. This is counterintuitive, but cold water constricts blood vessels which actually slows down cooling processes in the body. Offer your pet a drink of cool water immediately.

Give a cool shower. Same logic applies here — you want cool-but-not-cold water. Spray your pet down with the hose or place cool washcloths on his pets and around his head. Keep a continual stream of water going or change washcloths frequently, as heat will radiate from your pet.

The most important thing you can do as a pet mama is to be mindful in the summer.

Pay attention, take proactive steps, and know what to look out for — and enjoy the glorious warmer weather with your pet!

How else do you keep your pet comfortable in the summertime months? Share your best hot weather pet care tips in the comments!

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