SoCal residents and their pets are familiar with year-round heat, but temperatures in summer can soar higher and become more dangerous than at other times of the year. Pets are susceptible to heatstroke when exposed to extreme temperatures, because they cannot cool themselves as efficiently as people, and often need extra help to stay safe. The Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team explains seven ways to keep pets cool in the rising summer temperatures.

#1: Learn which pets are at the highest heatstroke risk

Heatstroke happens when extreme temperatures or humidity overwhelm a pet’s cooling methods, which primarily include panting. Up to 50% of pets with heatstroke do not survive, so awareness and recognition of your pet’s risk factors are extremely important. Dogs suffer heatstroke far more frequently than cats, and some attributes make certain dogs more susceptible than others.

Pets at increased heatstroke risk  include:

  • Short-nosed (i.e., brachycephalic) pets, including pugs and bulldogs
  • Senior or young pets
  • Pets with heart, lung, airway, or endocrine disorders
  • Pets moving to a warm area from a cooler climate
  • Overweight or obese pets

#2: Prioritize indoor activities with your pet

Staying inside in the air conditioning, especially during the hottest mid-day hours, is a sure way to keep pets cool. But pets—and people—stuck inside all the time can experience cabin fever and risk missing out on summer’s activities. Try to complete outdoor activities or exercise in the early morning or late evening and create fun games you can play indoors. Play with toys, chase a ball if space allows, offer interesting chews, teach a new trick, or shore up your pet’s existing obedience commands.

#3: Build up your pet’s heat tolerance gradually

Healthy pets can withstand heat for longer when their bodies are acclimated to the environment. For example, working military dogs can withstand 100-plus-degree desert temperatures, because they are trained extensively in that harsh environment. If a pet who lives in a cool climate visits a hot area, they will struggle more than the resident pet already accustomed to the temperature. Gradually increase the time your pet spends exercising outside to avoid shocking their system.

#4: Hit the pool or beach with your furry pal

Water is an extremely effective cool-down method, so take advantage of your backyard pool or a local dog beach whenever possible. Ensure you follow basic water safety rules, including teaching pets to swim before letting them play in the water on their own and always using life jackets. Also, always supervise your pet while they swim, and maintain good voice control in open areas. For pets who don’t enjoy swimming, try a baby wading pool or sprinkler.

#5: Provide your pet with water and shade for resting outside

Good hydration is essential to keep your pet cool and comfortable, so provide pets water at all times while outdoors, including on walks. Dehydration can cause lethargy, nausea, or muscle cramps. Also, keep your pet and their water cool by ensuring they always can access shady resting spots to shield them from the hot sun. 

#6: Supervise pets during outdoor activities

Keeping an eye on your pet while they play, run, or walk outside will ensure you can intervene if they need to rest or drink water. Move pets who look weak or are panting excessively to an air-conditioned area. Never leave your pet alone in the backyard or in a car, which acts like an oven on a hot day, and can quickly reach temperatures well above 100 degrees in a short time. 

#7: Recognize danger signs in your four-legged friend and take quick action

Heatstroke can quickly become deadly within an hour, so quick recognition and action are extremely important to maximize your pet’s chances of survival. Seek immediate veterinary care from our Valley Center Veterinary Clinic team or through a local emergency facility if your pet shows the following signs during or shortly after heat exposure:

  • Stumbling, incoordination, or confusion
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Reddened gums
  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Bleeding or bruising

Don’t let the intense summer heat keep you and your pet from spending quality time together during summer’s long, sunny days. Contact the Valley Center Animal Clinic team for more tips and tricks to beat the summer heat, or if your pet is showing heat-related illness signs and needs urgent care.