Beating the Summer Heat - Tips for Keeping Pets Cool

Everyone loves the warm weather that summertime brings, including your pets! For dogs, warmer temperatures signal days full of sunshine and fresh air -which means longer walks and more time playing outside. For outdoor cats, it means days full of exploring, playing, and basking in the cozy summer rays.

Yet, during the ‘dog days of summer,’ the heat index can really soar -so, you’ll want to make sure your pets are not only comfortable and safe when they venture outside, but also have what they need to keep cool. When it’s time to beat the sweltering heat, access to shade, as well as an ample supply of cool, clean water will be essential!

Why It’s Important to Keep Pets Cool in Hot Weather

Although cats and dogs generally tolerate warm weather well, it’s still crucial they have the ability and means to cool off when the temperatures start to climb. When a pet spends too much time outside (with no way to cool down) they can become dehydrated and overheated. Similar to humans, pets can also experience heat distress, which can lead to heat stroke or worse.

However, unlike their human owners, dogs and cats have a limited capacity for cooling themselves efficiently, so they are more susceptible to heat exhaustion and becoming distressed. Our pets will typically release heat by panting and sweating through their paws and nose. They can also cool down by drinking water.

Nevertheless, when a dog or cat is exposed to heat for a prolonged period of time, their body temperature can increase dramatically- which makes it more difficult for them to reduce their body temperature and cool down.

Signs a Pet Is Too Hot


Generally speaking, it will be relatively easy to tell when your dog is overheated. Recognizing the signs of heat distress will enable you to act quickly, cool your pet down, and, if necessary, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Signs of being overheated:

  • Panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Bright red gums
  • Lethargic (reluctant to run or play)
  • Fur/coat is warm to the touch

Signs of a heat stroke:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling/foaming at the mouth
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination-weak and shaky
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Seizures


Recognizing signs when your cat is overheated can be a bit more challenging, as felines tend to not show symptoms until they are in extreme distress. You can, however, check to see if they are dehydrated by doing the ‘skin pinch test’- Gently pulling up and pinching a small area of skin of the back of your cat’s neck will help you determine if they are hydrated enough- if the skin you pinched snaps back immediately- your cat is well-hydrated, if it doesn’t snap back, that’s a clear indicator of dehydration.

Signs of being overheated:

  • Panting
  • Lethargy
  • Red tongue or mouth
  • Sticky/tacky gums
  • Fur/coat is warm to the touch
  • Agitation/restlessness

Signs of a heat stroke:

  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Sunken eyes
  • Weakness/lethargic
  • Dizziness/staggering
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures

It’s important to note that certain breeds of dogs and cats that have flat faces will be more affected by the heat. For instance, a Pug or Persian cat’s flat face feature makes it more difficult for them to pant effectively, so they can’t release the heat as well as other breeds. Flat faced and long haired breeds along with those pets that have respiratory issues, are elderly/very young, or overweight should be kept in an air-conditioned environment as much as possible during the hot summer months.

How to Help Heat Distressed Pets

Assess their symptoms- Being able to recognize the symptoms will help you determine whether they are dehydrated, overheating, or suffering from heat stroke.

Contact your veterinarian immediately- If your pet is showing any symptoms of heat distress, a medical professional is the best person to help alleviate their symptoms- In extreme cases, your dog or cat may need intravenous fluids and other treatments in order to recover.

Cool your pet- Offering water or ice cubes to lick, keeping them in an air-conditioned room, using a wet towel, and spraying cold water on their fur will help cool them down and feel more comfortable.

Best Tips for Keeping Your Pet Cool

Watch the temperature and humidity index- When the temperatures rise into the 90’s and triple digits, you’ll want your pet to avoid the sun –especially during peak hours. Letting them out in the early morning hours or late in the evening is much safer for your cat and dog.

Limit exercise and time outdoors- Always try to avoid the hottest daytime hours for playing and walking. Most dogs and cats won’t have the energy or desire to be outside for extended periods of time on a hot day. If they can freely roam in the yard, let them outdoors during the cooler times of day. If you need to walk your dog, take short walks at a gentle pace and limited exercise/play time to short intervals of 10-15 minutes throughout the day.

Avoid hot surfaces- Concrete patios, asphalt sidewalks, even dirt and sand that are exposed to intense sun during the day can become so hot it can burn the pads on a dog/cat’s paws. Rule of thumb- if it feels hot when you touch it with the back of your hand, it’s too hot for your dog! Grassy areas are ideal for summer walks and play.

Provide shade and water- Whether you let your dog or cat out in a fenced in backyard or take your dog for a walk at any time during the day- make certain they have a shaded area to rest and bring plenty of cool water.

Never, EVER leave your pet in a hot car! Leaving your pet in a car on a hot day even in a shaded area with the windows cracked can be fatal. According to the ASPCA, even on a day when the outside temperature is 70-degrees, cars can reach temperatures of 90 degrees or more!

Groom pets regularly- Although shedding naturally occurs when the temperature changes, regular grooming during the summer months will help ensure that any dead, matted, or excess hair is brushed away so your pet has a lighter coat. Shaving your pet is never recommended, but trimming a dog’s fur will keep them cool and comfortable.

Protect sensitive pets from the sun’s rays- Just like humans, pets can be sensitive to the sun’s rays. Areas like the bridge of their nose, ear tips, around the eyes, and abdomen tend to have thinner skin- so if your cat or dog is going to be exposed to the sun for a while, a sunscreen formulated specifically for pets can prevent sunburn and give them the extra protection they need.

Keep your home cool- Leaving your pet in an air-conditioned environment is the best way to keep them cool. If you don’t have AC, opening (screened) windows and having multiple fans circulating the air is the next best thing.

Take them for a swim- Although most cats dislike water, dogs love to swim in pools, lakes, rivers, even the ocean. To ensure their safety, just make certain when they do ‘take a dip’ it’s under your watchful eye.

Cool down cages, crates, and sleeping areas- Cool cages and crates by draping a wet towel over the top or clip on a small battery operated fan that blows directly into the crate/cage. Use cooling mats, blankets, or pads on top of the bedding where they sleep.

Cool Dog and Cat Products to Help Beat the Heat

There are a number of terrific ‘chill’ products on the market that can help your pet cool down and beat the summer heat. You can easily find them at your local pet store or online.

  • Cooling vests
  • Cooling pads
  • Cooling blankets
  • Doggy swimming pool
  • Sprinkler cooling mats
  • Water fountains
  • Elevated beds
  • Cooling collars/bandanas
  • Crate fans
  • Protective paw booties
  • Portable, collapsible water bowls
  • Cooling toys

Final Thoughts

Keeping pets cool during the hot weather months is essential to their health and overall well-being. As pet owners, it is our responsibility to be aware of the dangers of rising summer temperatures, as well as to follow the tips that can help keep our dogs and cats happy and safe while they are outdoors.

Providing our dogs and cats with a cool environment, plenty of water, and shade, along with limiting their time outside is paramount in avoiding dehydration, becoming overheated, or suffering from heat stroke.

Having the ability to recognize and identify the symptoms of heat distress will enable you to take quick action in cooling your pet down. Immediately giving your veterinarian a call for advice, or a trip to the office for further assessment, can also help a distressed pet before the situation becomes worse.
Summertime can be a fun time for everybody! Our pets will enjoy summer outings and activities just as much as we do- as long as we make sure they have everything they need to stay comfortable and cool!


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