Keeping Your Pets Safe from Summer Heat

If it's too hot outside for you, it's too hot for your pet

Young girl with puppy outside
Jörg Steinmann/Getty Images

So you've prepared yourself for summer's extreme heat... but what about your pet?

Hot weather is even more of an issue for pets than people because animals aren't able to cool themselves off. Unlike humans, pets don't have sweat glands over their entire bodies. Instead, they release heat by panting, but this isn't efficient under extreme conditions so overheating is easy to do. When overheating does happen, pets are at risk of suffering from some of the same heat illnesses as we do, such as dehydration, sunburn, and heat stroke.

Help keep your dog, cat, or other pet cool by following our tips.

1. Never leave pets unattended in a car.

We all enjoy the companionship of our pet and the fresh air and sunshine of a leisurely drive, but if you plan on running an errand (no matter how quick) that your pet cannot accompany you on, it's best to leave your dog or cat at home. Why? There are a lot of windows in a car and these windows let in a lot of sunlight. When that sunlight is absorbed by the car's interior seats and dashboard, this heat becomes trapped inside the car. Even with the windows "cracked," the temperature inside your car can rise 20 degrees Fahrenheit above the outside temperature in just 10 minutes' time and as much as nearly 50 degrees within 1 to 2 hours. In other words, car temperatures can reach levels lethal to pets in less time than parents might think!

If those statistics aren't enough to convince you to leave your pet at home in hot weather, maybe this fact will.

If you live in of these 19 states -- AZ, CA, DE, IL, ME, MD, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NY, NC, ND, RI, SD, TN, VT, WA, WV -- leaving your pet in a parked vehicle is also illegal.

2. Avoid walking, running, exercising, or playing with your dog during the peak heat of the day.

Keep your pet out of the sun during the peak heat of the day, between 10 AM and 4PM.

More: What time of day do high temperatures happen?

If it's going to be a hot summer day, plan to either walk your dog in the early morning, before temperatures have had a chance to warm, or at evening, when temperatures have begun their decline. Keeping to this simple schedule will greatly reduce the risk of heat related illnesses for your pet (and you too!).

3. Don't walk your pet across hot asphalt or pavement.

Avoid crossing hot surfaces, like asphalt, as these can burn and blister your pet's paws. Not only this, but if your pet is short-legged, passing over hot surfaces can also make it become hotter faster since its body and belly are closer to the hot ground.

Asphalt and other dark surfaces have a lower albedo or reflectivity, which means they soak up more of the sun's energy than say dirt or grassy areas.

4. Make sure your pet has shelter in the shade.

If you must leave your pet outdoors on warm days, make sure that it has access to shade. As you know, air temperatures in direct sunlight are hotter than air temperatures in the shade, so providing cover from the sun will help keep your pet cooler, especially if your dog or cat has dark fur or is long-haired both of which attract additional heat.

Shade also lowers your pet's risk of sunburn.

5. Make sure your pet has access to water.

To protect your pet against dehydration and keep its body temperature down, make sure it has access to cool, clean water at all times. Place water in a sturdy bowl to discourage it from being easily tipped over.

Here's another tip to quickly hydrate and cool off your pet: feed it ice cubes. But be careful of doing this if your beloved pet is already showing signs of heat illness -- bringing the temperature down too quickly will end up doing more harm than good.


Resources & Links:

Hot Cars and Loose Pets, The American Veterinary Medical Foundation

Keeping Your Dog Safe from Summer Heat, The American Animal Hospital Association