Pets that suffer in summer: how to keep them cool
Did you know that some pets cope well in the warmer weather, while others find summer’s soaring temperatures a struggle?
Dogs that can beat the heat
Some breeds are more suited to hot temperatures than others, largely because they originated in warmer climates and adapted to suit the conditions. These dogs tend to have short, light-coloured, single coats, long noses and big, erect ears, all of which assist with cooling.
Dogs don’t sweat; they use panting as a way to cool down, which is a less efficient process than sweating – especially when the weather is both hot and humid. A longer nose makes panting more effective by cooling down the air by the time its breathed in, while big erect ears don’t trap the air and cool down more quickly than droopy ones.
Dogs that struggle in summer
At the other end of the spectrum, Arctic breeds and others with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with flat faces, such as Bulldogs, Boxers and Pugs, as they can’t pant as well as other breeds to cool themselves down. Very old, very young and obese pets are also more at risk, as are those suffering from heart or respiratory disease.
Many cats love soaking up the sunshine, but when the temperature soars, they usually seek out a place to keep themselves cool. They won’t be too active and will spend their time napping.
Cats can suffer from heat stress, however, if they get caught outside in the sun or over-exert themselves on a hot day, and flat-faced breeds can struggle to breathe in extreme conditions.
Keeping cool indoors
It’s a good idea to keep pets – including outdoor cats – indoors during extreme temperatures, but even indoors it can get uncomfortably warm on a scorching day. If it’s too warm for you, it’s probably too warm for your pet.
Therefore, we highly recommend that on days like these you implement cooling measures while your pet is home alone, for example:
- Close the curtains
- Open windows to allow the air to circulate
- Leave fans on or an air-conditioner running
- Provide plenty of fresh, cool water
Keeping cool outdoors – tips and ideas
- Make sure your pet has access to a shady spot throughout the day (note that an outdoor kennel can get extremely hot inside)
- Provide plenty of fresh water in a few different bowls in shady spots
- Place ice cubes in the water bowls (especially during a heat wave)
- Gently spray your pet with cool water (not ice cold)
- Set up an outdoor fan near where your pet likes to lie
- Place a sprinkler on the lawn so your pet can take a cooling shower
- Put wet towels down for a cool surface to lie on
- Place a shallow paddle pool in the yard
- Position cat hiding spots such as cardboard boxes in shady spots
- Use a damp towel to stroke your pet from their head down their back
- You can give your pet ice cubes to play with and chew on (expect a few puddles on the floor!). These can be flavoured with chicken or beef stock to enhance their appeal.
- Most dogs love to gnaw on a dog-friendly “popsicle”. To make, fill a Kong or similar item with a combination of mashed banana, natural yoghurt or cottage cheese and/or pet-friendly peanut butter and place in the freezer for a few hours before giving it to your dog.
- Cats can be given a frozen Kitty Kong filled with their favourite flavour of stock or soup or other feline-friendly food.
Dog walks on hot days
- Take you dog for walks early morning or evening.
- Pets can burn their footpads on very hot ground, so try to walk on grass rather than tarmac or concrete if possible.
- Take a water bottle if there is no fresh water available on your route.
- Limit the intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature.
Matted hair traps heat, so give long-haired pets a daily brush if possible.
For more summer grooming advice, read our article Summer Dog Grooming Guide.
Heatstroke and other dangers from heat exposure
On very hot days, pets that are exposed to the weather or have over-exerted are more at risk of exhaustion, dehydration and even heatstroke, just as we are.
If your pet appears unusually agitated or distressed, is breathing rapidly or panting heavily, is vomiting or drooling, has glazed eyes and is warm to the touch, they may be suffering from heatstroke. This is a potentially life-threatening condition. Contact your vet immediately if you have any concerns.
Dehydration can occur when your pet doesn’t take in enough fluid through drinking or eating wet foods to maintain normal body functions, which is more likely to happen in the heat.
Pets can suffer from sunburn, especially those with white ears and noses or other light pigmentation and those with white fur or thin to no fur. These pets should be kept indoors during the day in summer or have special pet sunscreen applied.
Never leave a pet unattended in the car – not even for a few minutes – temperatures can quickly rise to unsafe levels, even with the windows partly open or when parked in the shade. Each year, the RSPCA receives hundreds of distress calls about animals (usually dogs) being left in cars in the heat.
A pet insurance policy with Bow Wow Meow will help ensure you can always afford to give your pet the best treatment, whatever your budget.
Find out more about our pet insurance options for dogs
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