Safety Tips for Pets in Hot Weather

Safety Tips for Pets in Hot Weather

How hot is too hot for cats? What are the signs of heat stroke in dogs? Here’s everything you need to know to keep your pets safe this summer.

Every summer now, we hear about states breaking all-time maximum temperature records. As in, their hottest days – ever. It’s heating up more and more each summer, and pet owners are left with the question of how to keep their beloved animals safe and comfortable in the blazing heat. The best way to keep your pet safe is to know the answers to questions like “How hot is too hot for cats?” and “What are the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs?” to help you keep your furry friend happy and healthy all summer long.

Check out our collection of safety tips for pets in hot weather, along with some specific answers to questions about cats and dogs in the summer heat.

General Safety Tips for Pets in Hot Weather

Some of the most important summer safety tips will be the same for both cats and dogs. Here are some things for pet owners to keep in mind as the temperatures rise this summer:

  • Watch the humidity
  • Keep your pet hydrated
  • Stay indoors when necessary
  • Avoid the hottest part of the day
  • Never leave your dog or cat in the car
  • Give your pet shade
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs and cats
  • Be ready to respond to heat stroke with first aid

Don’t Forget About Humidity

You might look at the weather and see that it’s a balmy 75 degrees outside – a fairly safe temperature for Fido to go out and play, right? Sure – but have you considered the day’s humidity?

Humidity is an essential factor in gauging whether the outdoor temperature is safe for your pet. One of the primary ways both cats and dogs cool themselves off is by panting. This pulls moisture from their lungs, nose, and mouth and puts it into the air, which ultimately dissipates the amount of heat in their bodies. In super humid environments, pets can’t pant properly, and their body temperatures can get dangerously high as a result.

One rule to keep in mind is that if the numbers of heat and humidity exceed 150 when added together, it’s not safe for your pet to be outside. For example, 70 percent humidity on an 80-degree day would be a risky climate for your cat or dog.

dog being given water from water bottle

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Panting, as we explained above, removes moisture from the body to cool it down. So when dogs and cats pant, they’re losing lots of hydration – just as humans do when they sweat. Pets need to make up for that lost moisture to regulate their body heat effectively. Drink, pant, drink some more, pant some more!

Therefore, one of the best safety tips for pets in hot weather is to give your dog and cat consistent access to fresh, cool water for drinking. Even better, give them a body of water to jump in so they can cool off! While the average cat might not choose to partake, most dogs love to play in a kiddy pool in the backyard or play in the hose spray.

Keeping your animals hydrated is key to keeping them safe and healthy in hot weather. Even if their water looks fresh, change it out consistently for something cooler. Keep multiple water bowls around the house and yard to encourage your pet to drink. Never force your animal to drink, but monitor their water intake and make sure they always have access.

Sometimes Indoors Is the Only Option

Getting your pet outside for some play and exercise might be a daily routine for you – and that’s great! Most animals need this physical and mental stimulation daily. But, when it’s too hot, it’s time to move your exercise time inside. Even though taking your pet outside might feel like a special treat, that special treat can be dangerous and unhealthy when the temperatures outside are scorching. It’s incredibly unsafe to take your pet outside to exercise on hot days, as they are likely to overexert themselves in the pursuit of play. Sparky has to have that tennis ball at all costs, and he probably won’t stop chasing it even if he’s feeling hot and exhausted.

There are plenty of ways to keep your cat or dog entertained and exercised while indoors. A quick game of chase around the couch can get your pooch’s heart rate up, and we all know kitties can get a full-body workout from chasing the laser. When the outdoor temperatures start to soar, keep your pet in a cooler, temperature-controlled environment as much as possible.

Avoid the Heat of the Day

Timing is also an easy way to keep your pet safe in the summer months. Schedule walks and outdoor time for early, early morning (maybe before sunrise) and late evening, after the sun has gone down.

It’s a common misconception that the hottest part of the day is when the sun is highest in the sky. It’s actually a few hours after this – often between 3:00 and 5:00 PM because the sun’s rays have had time to build on the surface of the earth and heat the surrounding air. Check your local weather for the daily highs and lows in your area, so you know when to stay inside with your pet and what times of day might be the coolest and best for outdoor play.

dog left in hot car resting head on dash board

Never Leave Your Pet in the Car

Countless pets die each year from being left in hot cars. On a hot day, it can take less than an hour for a car’s indoor temperature to rise to deadly levels. Even if it’s only 70 degrees outside, a car left in the sun will have an interior temperature of nearly 90 degrees after 10 minutes. Never, ever leave your pet in the car during the summer.

Even if you’re just heading into the store for a moment, you could get caught up with something and forget about your pet. Sure, it sounds crazy – you could never forget your beloved animal, right? But it happens all the time. People whose pets have died in hot cars were usually good, loving owners – they simply forgot that they had left their animal in the car. It happens, and the only way to prevent it is by never leaving your cat or dog in a car on a warm day.

Make Sure Your Pet Has A Shady Retreat

Always make sure that your pet’s outdoor area has access to shade. Whether it’s an awning, a tree, or a canvas tent, your outdoor pet always needs to have a way to stay out of the sun. Monitor this area, so you know it stays shaded throughout the day, and the shade isn’t limited to only a few hours. Make sure the shady spot is a comfortable space for your pet to be in, and they don’t need to leave it to get water. It’s best if the shaded area is open space, not enclosed like a dog house, to encourage better air circulation.

Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs and Cats

Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat stress – there are many phrases that refer to hyperthermia in animals. Hyperthermia is when an animal’s body starts making more heat than it can lose, and their core body temperature rises, causing damage to bodily tissue. This is a severe condition that kills pets every year – in part because owners don’t know the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs and cats, and therefore can’t tell when their animal is suffering from it.

Signs of heat stroke in dogs and cats include increasingly heavy panting, drooling, and difficulty breathing. A pet suffering from heat stroke might also have discoloration in the gums and tongue, which might be extremely red or pale. They might have an increased heart rate, dizziness, and lethargy. Other severe symptoms of heat stroke include muscle tremors, seizures, collapsing, vomiting, and diarrhea. The signs of heat stroke in dogs and cats are similar, though these symptoms may be more subtle in cats.

Knowing what signs to watch for can help you understand how your furry friend is doing in a hot environment. Being prepared to address heat stroke with first aid and an emergency vet visit is one of the best ways to keep your pet safe in the summer heat.

Be Ready to Respond to Heat Stroke with First Aid

It’s not enough to just know the signs that your pet is suffering from heat stroke. You have to be prepared to react and take care of your pet immediately. Between the moment you realize your pet is experiencing heat stroke and when they are safely under veterinary care, you need to know what to do to get your cat or dog on the road to recovery.

If you believe your pet is suffering heat stroke, remove them immediately from the hot area and into a cooler, darker place. Call your veterinarian immediately. Never use ice or cold water to help your animal recover from heat stroke, as this could put their body into shock.

Offer your pet cool water to drink and place a few wet towels underneath them. You can also apply the towels to their body, but change these out regularly so they don’t get warm and trap heat against your pet’s body. Apply cool water to areas like their paws and ears. Cool the car down with air conditioning before transferring your pet into it and driving them to the emergency clinic.

How to Keep Your Cat Safe in Hot Weather

Understanding how cats experience heat is one of the most important parts of keeping them safe in the summer months. To better understand how our feline friends experience hot weather, let’s look at:

  • How do cats stay cool when it’s hot?
  • What temperature is too hot for cats to be comfortable and safe outdoors?
  • What are some tips for keeping your cat cool on the hottest summer days?

cat sitting in front of fan

How Do Cats Stay Cool?

Cats have many ways to stay cool, but these methods are more limited than the ones humans have. While humans have sweat glands all over their bodies, cats only have a few located in their paws. Cats also lick their fur to cool down – when the saliva evaporates, it cools them off. Like dogs, cats also pant to cool off.

Cats will also take steps to create a cooler environment for themselves. When it’s hot, they’ll seek shade and airflow. You might find your kitty lounging by the floor’s air vent or curling up on the tile or in the bathroom sink on summer days.

How Hot Is Too Hot for Cats?

As we sweat it out this summer, many pet owners are suddenly wondering, what temperature is too hot for cats?

Fun Fact: cats actually have a higher body temperature than humans! Whereas we sit comfortably at around 98.6 degrees (give or take a few – we’re all different), cats run between 100.5 and 102.5 degrees. These temperatures would be considered a fever by human standards!

Because cats have higher internal body temperatures, they can withstand hotter temperatures than we might expect. But you should still be very wary about letting your cat out on hot days. The question of how hot is too hot for cats will depend on many factors, including your feline’s age, coat type, overall health, and – as mentioned above – the humidity. Younger cats in good health with lighter fur will be comfortable at higher outdoor temperatures than older cats with poor health or those with thick fur.

Also, cats with flat faces and short snouts, like Persians and Himalayans, tend to struggle more in hot weather. When a cat’s respiratory activity is inhibited, they will overheat more quickly.

How to Keep Your Cat Cool on Hot Days

In addition to our general safety tips for pets during sweltering summer days, there are a few cat-specific things you can do to keep our cat cool on hot days.

Your cat has favorite spots in your home – that window sill looking out over the birdbath or that high bookshelf where they can survey their kingdom – and your kitty will gravitate towards these spots even if they’re hot and sunny. Try to make sure your cat’s favorite comfy spots are shaded and cool whenever you can. This might mean moving the cat tree closer to the air conditioner or placing their cat bed in a darker, cooler part of the house.

Keep their food and water fresh and cool. A cool or cold water bowl can do wonders in helping a cat cool off from the inside out. You might also consider making a homemade frozen cat treat for your favorite feline!

dog outside laying on green grass

How to Keep Your Dog Safe in Hot Weather

While some cats might live their lives inside, almost all dogs spend some of their time outdoors. Dogs have different physical exercise needs, as well. These two factors put dogs at very high risk for heat stroke. If you’re wondering how to keep your canine companion safe in these increasingly hot summer months, you’ll need to understand:

  • The methods your dog uses to stay cool in hot weather
  • What temperatures are unsafe for your dog to be outside
  • Strategies for keeping your dog cool on hot days

How Dogs Stay Cool

Like cats, dogs have sweat glands in their paws, where fur won’t get in the way of them releasing moisture through their paw pads. But sweating is a very small part of how a dog stays cool when it’s hot. The primary method they use, which you might’ve guessed, is panting. A dog’s panting evaporates moisture from their nose, mouth, and lungs, and as cool air passes over these wet areas, your dog cools off.

Another unique way that dogs stay cool in the summer is called vasodilation. Vasodilation is when blood vessels, particularly those in their face and ears, grow bigger and carry warm blood closer to the surface of the skin. Because that warm blood is closer to the outdoor air, it can cool off more quickly before being carried back to the animal’s internal organs, thus reducing their internal temperature.

What Temperature Is Too Hot for a Dog?

Many factors will influence what summer temperature is healthy and safe for your dog. These include the humidity level, your pet’s overall health, the density of their fur, their size, and their age. Rather than trying to come up with a formula to calculate what temperature is safe for your dog to be outside, you should simply monitor your pet. If you aren’t sure about the day’s weather, it’s best to err on the side of caution and keep your dog safely indoors. Typically, if it’s too hot for you to be comfortable outside, it’s too hot for your pet.

If you do spend time outside when it’s overly hot, follow our tips and watch closely for the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs. Your dog can show you when they’re too hot with excessive panting. Plus, if they’re uncomfortable, most dogs will beg to go back inside. This is a clear sign that it’s too hot outside for your pooch!

How to Keep Your Dog Cool on Hot Days

There are several easy and fun ways to keep your dog cool on hot days. Make them a frozen “pupsicle," play in the sprinklers, or take them to the swimming pool or lake. If there is no water around to play in, your dog can also benefit from a wet towel placed on their back to cool them off. And of course – there’s always the option to chill inside by the air conditioning and take it easy!

If you decide to beat the heat with a water adventure, then practice water safety with your canine companion. While we generally think of dogs as water-loving creatures and good swimmers, that’s not always true. Be sure your dog is comfortable around water before letting them loose, and always provide them with a life jacket if you’re going to be around large bodies of water like a lake. Some dogs love the water so much that they’ll tire themselves out without realizing it and have trouble getting back to shore safely. A life jacket solves this problem and gives you peace of mind.

Pro tip: Don’t assume that shaving your pet will cool them off. In fact, shaving your pet can sometimes do more harm than good when it comes to helping them regulate their internal temperature, especially for double-coated dogs. Double-coated dogs have two layers of fur: a dense, inner undercoat made of fuzzy, short hairs and a top coat of long hairs. The undercoat, which is shed regularly, helps your dog handle the heat by capturing cool air and holding it closer to your dog’s skin. Never shave a double-coated breed.

Have a Safe, Pet-Friendly Summer with These Safety Tips for Pets

Summer is here, and it’s a time for fun – not stress. With these safety tips for pets, you can ensure summer is a pleasure for both you and your pet. From “How hot is too hot for cats?” to “What are the signs of heat stroke in dogs?” we hope we’ve answered some of your questions and left you feeling ready for the hottest days of the year. Always watch for the signs of heat exhaustion in dogs and cats so you can be sure your pet is enjoying the summer weather as much as you are!