During summer, our pets can be as uncomfortable in the heat and humidity as we are. Here's what you need to know to help them keep cool.

By Karen Asp

The dog days of summer are upon us, and tips for keeping pets safe, cool, and comfortable during time outdoors are always worth mentioning (even if your pets spend most of their time indoors!). Summer is prime time for family get-togethers and road trips, after all. Here, the experts explain how dogs and cats naturally cool themselves, plus they offer a few steps pet owners can take to prevent four-legged companions from overheating.

1. Transferring Body Heat Via Conduction

Dogs and cats have sweat glands on their paw pads, but they’re not effective at regulating body temperature. One way for pets to deal with summer heat is to lie down on a cool surface like a tile floor. This is how they transfer their body heat and why it’s important to keep your house cool, says Josh Sosnow, D.V.M., owner of the North Scottsdale Animal Hospital in Arizona. Also watch the heat index; if you feel hot, your pet probably does too.

2. Cooling Themselves by Panting

When a dog pants, her breath carries away body heat and replaces it with cooler air from the environment. But panting has its limits: If you see your dog producing more saliva than normal, if her body is warm to the touch, or if she is reluctant to move, get her to a cool spot. You can also wet her down with cool water (test the water temperature on yourself first if using a hose).

3. Self-Grooming to Dissipate Heat

There's reason cats will often find a shady spot where they may groom themselves, and it's not just about looking their best. Their saliva helps dissipate heat, says Kurt R. Venator, D.V.M., Ph.D., chief veterinary officer with Purina.

4. Hydrating with Water

On hot and humid days, it’s crucial to keep tabs on water intake. Most healthy adult dogs and cats need about 1 cup for every 10 pounds of body weight. If cats are fed only wet food, their needs drop to about 1/3 cup per 10 pounds, Venator says. Cats can be finicky; fill a shallow bowl (we recommend the Kurgo Travel Dog Bowl, $12.99, Amazon) so their whiskers don’t hit the bowl when they drink, or try a fountain to play off their attraction to moving water.

5. Using their Fur for Extra Protection

Most vets don’t recommend shaving pets except for cases of extreme matting. “Fur insulates in the cold but also prevents the absorption of heat in warm weather,” Venator says. Fur also helps protect their skin from sunburn. If you do need to shave your pet, keep fur at least 1 inch long.

Summer means you and your pets can make the most of those long, light-filled days in the yard, at the dog park, and on the road. With these expert insights, you'll rest assured knowing the entire family is safe and cool!


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