Top Tips for Keeping Pets Cool As Temps Rise

The most common cause of dogs getting heat stroke is the people who love them. Leave a dog in a car when it’s 85 degrees outdoors, and even with windows open for cross-circulation, the dashboard will heat up to 170 degrees in 15 minutes.

So surprise, this oppressive heat can kill a dog. Dogs have a tougher time cooling themselves than people. While they do sweat some from their paws, essentially they pant to regulate their body temperatures.

Some dogs know when they’re too hot, and they plop down. However, other fun-loving hounds just keep going and going. But dogs are not Energizer bunnies. Their bodies can continue overheating forever. When a dog’s temperatures continues rising (100.5 to 102.5 is normal), to 105 to 107 degrees, heatstroke can set in. These dogs must be cooled off fast. Wrapping in a cold blanket is one way to accomplish this, however, if the dog’s temperature doesn’t quickly return to normal, seek veterinary assistance.

Just as people get acclimated to heat so do dogs. If you live in Detroit and visit tropical Mexico in January, the heat seems overwhelming because there’s no time to acclimate. Dogs that have been outdoors a lot in June and July, are likely to handle an August heat wave better than a dog who has spends pretty much everyday lounging in the lap of air conditioned luxury.

In hot weather people have the advantage of changing shirts, wearing a bright color or white shirt to reflect the sun, rather than a black or dark colored shirt. Unfortunately, a dark brown or black Newfoundland or a black Labrador retriever can’t do a thing about its coat. Dogs like the West Highland terrier or Maltese have the advantage of a white coat. However, dogs with white coats are somewhat more subject to sunburn. Dogs bred to live in arctic cold, like Alaskan Malamutes or Siberian huskies have a tough time in sweltering temperatures.

Also, large dogs are less efficient at cooling themselves than small dogs or cats, which is why a Great Dane may huff and puff on a 85 degree day while a little Yorkshire terrier romps energetically. However, dogs of any size with pushed in noses (brachycephalic breeds), from Pekingese to boxers have more difficulty breathing easy in hot weather.

Don’t panic, dogs have been enjoying summers for a long time. Still, it’s up to the adults in the house to determine when enough is enough. Here are ten ways to keep your pooch cool in the summer:

1) Kiddie pools, swimming pools, or if you’re lucky, a lake: It doesn’t take much convincing to motivate a Newfoundland or Labrador to cool off with a refreshing swim. Other dogs may require more coaxing. Some dogs don’t know how to doggie paddle, so don’t force a dog to dive into deep water. Remember, for a toy dog, one-foot of water is getting deep. Also, be sure the pooch understands how to leave a pool; even Newfoundlands and Labradors can’t swim forever. There are instances of dogs drowning because they can’t figure out how to exit.

2) Sprinkler or Hose: Some dogs bark with joy as the kids chase them with a hose. Other dogs bark as a desperate plea to stay dry. Even for dogs who protest, there’s no denying a hose down is an instant cool off.

3) Cold water bag (filled with ice water) or ice pack, available at many stores. Gently rub on Fido’s tummy. This can be used indoors out outdoors.

4) If your dog must be out in the yard for any period of time, be sure there’s shade and plenty of water (remember some water will evaporate, leave several bowls).

5) Popsicles: Purchase the sugarless kind. If you’re serving indoors, make sure Fido doesn’t walk off to enjoy a blueberry treat on your white plush carpet. (Do not offer your dog chocolate Popsicles; chocolate is bad for dogs.)

6) Cluck-sicles: Make chicken boullion, and freeze in an ice cube tray. When the pooch is warm, offer a cluck-sicle.

7) If there’s no air conditioning, use a floor fan. Make sure curious puppy paws can’t squeeze through the grating.

8) If you go running with your dog, take water along (for you and your four-legged partner). Run early in the morning, or after the sun goes down.

9) Mist when Fido gets hot under the collar. The show dog people use this trick, and joggers can too. Fill a plant mister with ice water and give your pooch a shower to keep her cooled down.

10) There are now crate pads that actually keep cool on their own, available through catalogs and at pet stores.

Here are some additional hot weather concerns:

Skunks: This is one recipe Julia Child has yet to publish:
First, get a clothespin – that’s for your nose. Now, wipe your pet down with a solution of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup sodium bicarbonate and one-teaspoon liquid dish soap. Step two: Dunk your stinkin’ pet into a bath of two parts tomato juice and one part luke warm water. Sorry, V8 won’t do. If you prefer, there are also over-the-counter products, which may get out the stench – some work better than others.

Cats in Trees: Where’s Sheriff Andy Taylor when you need him? In most places, if you call the local sheriff or fire department to fetch a cat from a tree, you’ll only hear a bemused emergency operator ask, “You’ve gotta be kidding?” If you manage to convince emergency personnel to rescue your cat, you’ll probably be charged fee.

Be patient. Veterinary clinics rarely report treating cats who have fallen from trees. Emergency rooms, however, do treat people who have fallen from trees trying to rescue cats. You may try enticing your feline friend by wedging an open can of tuna among lower branches or at the base of the tree, and then leaving a trail of tuna to the ground.

Lawn Pesticides: Dr. Steve Hanson, veterinary toxicologist at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Animals (ASPCA) National Animal Poison Control Center, Urbana, IL. says, “Most lawn pesticides aren’t particularly dangerous to pets as long as the treatment is thoroughly dry when the pets are on the lawn.”

If your dog or cat rolls around in a lawn still wet from being treated, but is showing no ill effects – don’t wait for possible symptoms – give your pet a bath using gentle dish washing detergent. Following the bath, if your pet is acting lethargic, foams from the mouth or shows no interest in food, call your vet.

If you suspect your pet has eaten slug and/or snail bates, which are potentially deadly, call your vet immediately.

Eating Grass or Plants (free of pesticides): Dogs eat grass probably because it tastes good. Some veterinarians say dogs feel compelled to eat grass because their tummy is upset, and they “need” to throw up. This is not harmful to you dog, but may be harmful to your Oriental rug.

Lilies are toxic to cats. And while cats and dogs generally stay away from poisonous Japanese Yew, horses devour it, and it’s toxic too. “A Guide of Dangerous Plants to Dogs and Cats” is $15. “Natural Poisons in Horses” is $22. Call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC), 888-426-4435, to order. If your dog or cat exhibits symptoms beyond vomiting after ingesting a plant, call your vet or the NAPCC.

Rodenticides: Pets who have ingested rodent poison may emit a sort of sour gassy smell and can have sudden muscle tremors, or bleeding from the nose or stool. Seeing a veterinarian promptly may save your pet’s life. Hansen says knowing the kind of rodenticide used can dramatically assist your vet’s treatment.

(If your pet suffers a toxic reaction, and you’re unable to reach your vet or require additional advice, call the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center, 888-426-4435. All calls are $45; follow up is free.)

Bubble Gum: Prepare a “salad” of vegetable oil and low fat peanut butter and gently rub the mix on the affected paws. If the gum isn’t budging, try a liquid citrus-based product called Goo Gone, which is readily available at hardware stores and places selling household cleaning supplies.

Poisonous Critters: Some kinds of snake venom barely affect canines, while others may be fatal. So much depends on the kind of snake rendering the blow, how much venom was delivered and how large your dog is. Don’t bother trying to suck the venom out of snakebite; you’re only wasting precious time. Immediately, see your vet or go to an emergency clinic. If antivenin is required, it’s the same exact stuff that’s used to help people who are bitten. Some kinds of toads also emit a poison. If Fido toys with a toad, he may be playing with fire. A serious fluctuation in heartbeat may occur; the first symptom to look for is foaming from the mouth.

Bee stings: For most companion animals, a single sting may go unnoticed. But just as people may have a serious allergic reaction, dogs and cats can too. If the face begins to swell, it may affect the pet’s ability to breath – call your vet. While antihistamines will usually correct symptoms in dogs, a conversation with a vet is still required to suggest dosage.

Fish Hooks: Attracted to the aromatic odor of stinky fish or curious about wiggly worms, pooches can get hooked. If it’s a single hook (as opposed to multi-barbed hooks), you may be able to push it through. If you attempt this, use a rope to muzzle your dog because he may bite because it hurts.
If the hook is multi-barbed or if it’s stuck on the upper palate or tongue, it’s much kinder to your beleaguered dog to allow a vet to anesthetize the area.

Contributing reporter: Julie Lux


Note: This article is copyrighted by Steve Dale and can be used as source material and for reference only. It cannot be reprinted verbatim. Please contact Steve Dale at if you have any questions.


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