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Protect your Pet from the Heat during Summer’s “Dog Days”

The second half of July marks the period know as the "dog days of summer." While the term actually derives from the astronomical calendar, modern usage refers to those hazy, humid summer days when it’s just too hot to do anything but relax.

For the canine members of the family, these days can mean heat-related illness. All pets – even canine athletes — are potential victims of summer heat. Dogs and cats don’t sweat, and they don’t have an efficient way to cool themselves down.

Signs that an animal is experiencing heat stress can include failure to salivate, excessive panting and an increased heart rate. Your pet may also lose its appetite, look ill or tired, and become unresponsive to you.

Treating heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, when the pet’s body may feel hot to the touch. Left untreated, your pet could go into seizure.

If allowed to progress, heat stroke can be fatal, so it’s important to act at the first sign of heat stress:

  • Get your pet out of the sun and into a cool, shady place.
  • Immerse him in or rinse him down with cool — not icy cold — water.
  • Offer him cool – not cold – water and encourage him to drink.
  • Call your vet as soon as you can get to a phone.

Prevention first

The best treatment for heat stress is prevention. Pets accustomed to being inside, in air conditioning, should not be left outside on a hot day. Exercise your pet during the coolest times of day – early in the morning or after the sun goes down. .

If your pets are acclimated to being outdoors, it’s okay for them to spend time outside – as long as they have access to shade and plenty of water on hot days. Remember that shade "moves" during the day. Don’t leave any pet alone outdoors for the entire day.

NEVER leave a pet in a car on a hot – or even a warm — day. If it’s just 80-degrees outside, the sun’s heat can cause the temperature inside a car to increase rapidly to 120 degrees – even with the windows open.

If possible, find an alternative to leaving your dog home alone all day in the sun, like a doggy day camp or day care program where he can socialize with other canines. Look for a program that provides a safe environment for your pet – either indoors in an air-conditioned room, or outside in a play-yard with plenty of shade and water. Best Friends offers doggy day camp and day care programs at many of its locations.

For more information, check out the Best Friends location near you.