Earlier this May, a woman in North Carolina was charged with animal cruelty after two dogs died after being left in her car for several hours. Even though she left the windows cracked open, and the outside temperature was only 80 degrees, the temperature inside the car grew so hot, that eventually the dogs succumbed to heat stroke.
Tragic stories like this are a reminder that it’s incredibly important to be extra careful with our pets during the warmer months. Sweltering weather can be uncomfortable for us, but ultimately, we can generally find refuge in air conditioning, make sure to keep drinking cold water, and strip down to as little clothing as possible. It’s not so easy for cats and dogs. Follow these tips to ensure your pets have a comfortable, safe, and cool summer.
1. Know What’s Normal
The best way for you to recognize heat stroke or heat-related distress in your cat or dog is to be incredibly aware of how they usually behave when the mercury isn’t sky high. Does your cat often drape herself along the floor, looking vaguely lethargic? Then it’s likely not a cause for worry, regardless of the temperature. But if your cat doesn’t usually rest that way, or your dog doesn’t typically pant quite so heavily, these could be signs of heat stroke. The more familiar you are with your pet’s habits and behavior, the easier it will be for you to know when something just isn’t quite right.
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2. Don’t Leave Dogs in Cars
Just like small children and babies, dogs should not be left alone in the car. If you’re running errands, consider leaving the dog at home. Or, bring the dog into the store with you if it’s pet-friendly. Even cracking the windows isn’t enough to keep your dog cooled off, since the temperature inside an enclosed car rises much faster than the temperature outside.
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3. Be Smart About Exercise
Making sure your pet gets adequate exercise is such an important part of their health, and shouldn’t be neglected just because it’s hot outside. That said, just like you might avoid a 5K run when it’s over 95 degrees, so too should your dog skip strenuous exercise when it’s really roasting outside. If you are going to exercise, see the next tip, and schedule wisely.
Don’t forget, even if your dog or cat isn’t going outside, it’s important to make sure that your home is cool enough for them to stay comfortable: consider keeping the AC going, or make sure there is a cool area in your home for your pets. For a break, try setting up a kiddie pool or sprinkler in the yard for your dog.
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4. Walk in Mornings and Evenings
Schedule your dog walks around the coolest times of day: the early morning and the evening. Keep walks brief if you have to go out during midday, when the sun is at its hottest. Be mindful of the temperature of the surfaces you and your dog are walking on — even though paws are a bit more sturdy than bare feet, if the sidewalk, sand, or brick pathway feels scorching hot for you, it’ll also be quite painful for your dog’s paws.
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5. Make Sure Water Is Always Plentiful and Fresh
Sometimes cats don’t drink enough water — this is a common problem — but as temperatures rise, inadequate hydration can cause real health issues. Jazz up your cat’s water bowl by putting in a few ice cubes, or, if your cat doesn’t have one already, consider trying out a fountain. Make sure whether you’re inside or outside with your dog, you always have fresh,clean water available.
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