By Jodi N. Gonzalez, Contributor to Aunt Bertha

Summer dog, panting

Photo by Carlos Castilla

The dog days of summer are here, and not just for us humans. Our furry friends are in the heat of it as well, and keeping them cool is a top priority.

Staying inside is the obvious way to avoid the summer heat, but pets still want to play! If your best friend is itching to get outside and run, here are a few things you can do to keep them safe in the sun:

  1. Keep things in check: Summer is a good time to take your pet to the vet for a checkup. Undetected health issues can put your dog or cat at greater risk of heat-related problems. Pets with flatter noses, such as pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to becoming overheated because they can’t pant as well as other breeds. And overweight or elderly dogs and cats are also at a higher risk of heat-related problems. Getting a clean bill of health is the best way to prepare for summer fun. 
  2. Lighten up the workouts: Shorter walks, early in the day, help your pet get in some exercise without taxing their system. If your routine is a daily long walk around the park, cut down on the time and frequency during the hottest months. 
  3. Throw shade: Well, not that kind of shade. Make sure that wherever you take your dog or cat, you can find plenty of places that block the sun so you can retreat and refresh. And always bring along plenty of water to cool them off. For yourself, as well.
  4. Leave them at home: Locking your pet in the car, even for a quick run into the store, is a recipe for disaster in high temperatures. Even if the outside air doesn’t feel too warm, the air inside a closed vehicle can rise rapidly, leading to distress and even death for an animal. Cracking open a window isn’t the solution; temperatures can still be unsafe. When the outside temperature is 85, the inside of the vehicle can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes, even with a window opened up a bit. Besides being dangerous, leaving a pet in the car is also illegal in some states. Check here to see what the law says in your location.
  5. Tender tootsies: Ground surfaces can heat up quickly, and that can mean pain for your pooch. Put your hand on the sidewalk before taking Fido out for a walk to make sure it isn’t too hot for your pet’s paws. 
  6. Get a summer ‘do: For dogs and cats with long hair, summer is the best time to try a new look. A trip to the groomers for a shorter-than-usual cut can keep pets cooler. But don’t shave them completely. Fur protects their skin from sunburn.
  7. Full face forward: Muzzles are a good option when dogs need to be restrained, but in hot weather, the contraptions can prevent panting. And panting helps pets regulate temperature. Skip the muzzle when it’s hot outside.
  8. Icy treats: Try ice cubes or puppy snow cones for a treat after time in the sun. Check out these recipes to get you started. 
  9. Know the signs: If, despite best efforts, your pet still seems off after time in the sun, it could be heatstroke. Signs of heatstroke in pets include trouble breathing, excessive panty, drooling, mild weakness, acting “off,” and collapse. More advanced symptoms include seizures and vomiting. If you notice any of these symptoms, wrap your pet in cool, wet towels, and seek veterinary care right away.
  10. Cool by the pool: We’ve all seen adorable videos of dogs doing laps in the backyard watering hole, but not all animals are strong swimmers. Keep animals away from the pool party just to be safe if you’re not able to supervise. Some breeds are more inherently agile in the water. See if your dog falls on the super swimmer list.

You can find resources in your area by ZIP Code for pets on Aunt Bertha under the Care menu in “Animal Welfare.”

Jodi N. Gonzalez is a veteran writer and editor. In her 25+ year career, she has managed copy desks and written content for the Austin American-Statesman and the Los Angeles Times’ online content group.