Cool Cats and Hot Dogs: Pet Safety in Summer

Playing fetch in the water may be fun, but saltwater is not good for a pup.
Playing fetch in the water may be fun, but saltwater is not good for a pup. (Image: Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

The long days of summer can be your pet's most enjoyed time of year. School breaks and work vacations mean Whiskers and Buster can expect more time with their people and excursions to their favorite places. The joys of summer, however, come with their own risks for your animal companion. Keep your pet safe with a few precautions.

When it's hot outside, ideally we want to bring our pets inside.

Jonathan Cooper, East Ridge, Tennessee, Animal Services director

Defend Against Bugs

You take the most important summer safety precautions before your pet steps out into the summer sun. Warmer temperatures mean fleas, ticks and mosquitoes are waiting to feast on Buster's blood. If your pet isn't on parasite prevention, consult your veterinarian about what product will work best. Summer often means travel, boarding and exposure to other animals, making it especially important to protect your pet against disease. Ensure vaccinations are up-to-date at the beginning of the season. Parasite prevention and vaccinations aren't just for dogs and cats. Rodents, reptiles and horses also need routine veterinary care to enjoy a safe, pest-free summer.

Fill the Water Bowls

"When it's hot outside, ideally we want to bring our pets inside," said Jonathan Cooper, East Ridge, Tennessee, Animal Services director. A humane officer for more than a decade, Cooper said not providing enough water is the most common mistake pet owners make in the summer. Even indoors, pets need more water when temperatures are warm, and water should be in a container that your pet can't tip over. If you're traveling with your pet, take bottles and a bowl so you can frequently offer your pet a drink. This is critical at the beach because dogs often swallow saltwater, which only increases dehydration.

Cool It Down

If you don't have air conditioning, help Whiskers stay cool by using fans to keep the air moving. Put out a bowl of ice for him to lick. Wipe your pet down with a cool washcloth or icepack several times a day. For rabbits and rodents in enclosures, place a frozen water bottle in the cage. Leaving windows open will help keep inside temperatures cooler, but ensure screens are secure. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals notes that summer brings an increase in High-Rise Syndrome, when pets, especially cats, fall out of high windows. The fall can seriously injure or kill your pet.


While every pet guardian knows it's dangerous -- and illegal -- to leave a pet in a parked vehicle when temperatures are warm, there are other safety precautions for Buster's outdoor summer adventures. While fur provides some protection against the sun, pets get burned just like people. Keep sunscreen on your pet's ear tips and nose, the areas he is most likely to burn. Exercise your pet early and late, when temperatures are cooler. This is especially important for rabbits, that can suffer heat strokes in temperatures as low as 80 degrees if the humidity is high. Test the temperature of pavement with your hand before your pet walks on it.

Protect an outdoor cat's nose with sunscreen.
Protect an outdoor cat's nose with sunscreen. (Image: Christoph Jorda/LOOK/Getty Images)

Keep Them Secure

There are always more lost pets during the summer months, notes Cooper. Whether you're lounging in the backyard, traveling across the country or going to the lake for the day, get your pet a tag that includes your name, telephone number and address. You might also considering getting your pet a microchip. Cooper encourages pet guardians to make frequent checks of their pets' whereabouts. With cookouts, play dates and other summer activities, doors and gates inevitably get left open. There are also loud and unfamiliar noises, from fireworks to afternoon thunderstorms, that frighten some animals and cause them to jump fences or bolt out opened doors.

Heat Stroke

Never leave a pet in a parked car. According to The Weather Channel, the inside temperature of a car sitting in 90-degree heat for just ten minutes can reach 109 degrees. After one hour, the temperature can top 133 degrees, enough to give any animal heat stroke. How can you detect heat stroke? An excessively panting dog, or a cat that pants at all, can be a sign of heat stroke and a warning to get your pet to a cooler area immediately. As a heat stroke progresses, pets may appear anxious, refuse to obey commands, vomit and collapse. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal. Get your pet to a veterinarian immediately.

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