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How to keep your pets cool during the dog days of summer


The heat is here.

Texas has already broken heat records, and if you are feeling it, so are your pets. This time of year, it’s especially important to be paying attention to our furry friends.

For tips on how to make sure your pet keeps cool this summer, the Standard checked in with Sophia Proler, director of the South Central Region for Best Friends Animal Society. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: What are, in general, a few tips for keeping your pets cool?

Sophia Proler: So just like humans in this hot heat, when we’re outside, we try to avoid being outside in the hottest parts of the day. So if it’s at all possible to bring your pets inside or keep them inside during those hottest parts of the day, that can really help.

It’s always important to have plenty of fresh, clean water on hand, and if you are going out to the park with your pup or if you’re on the road, you can actually get some of those disposable or collapsible water buckets so that you can give them some water on the road as well.

And it’s really important to be thinking about hot pavement. If it’s hot for your hand to be on that pavement, it’s going to be hot for a pet’s paw.

Well, you mentioned water. What about ice water? I’ve heard putting ice in their water might seem like a very friendly idea, but is that a great idea with pets?

You know, it’s not usually the best option. Just regular old cool water straight from the tap is totally fine.

Some dogs and cats actually do like to chew on ice, so that can actually be a nice cool-off treat. But as a general rule, it’s best to just give them plain, fresh, clean water.

What about cooling pads? I see these types of things advertised all the time. Are they a good idea? Have you tried them? Do they work?

Yes, I love them. We actually have several shelter partners, especially in South Texas, that don’t have AC for some of their shelter kennels. So we use cooling pads there and some dogs like them, some dogs don’t like them. But if that’s an option for you and your pets, certainly recommend giving that a try.

Well, you mentioned shelters, many without air conditioning during the summer months. Is there an extra consideration someone should think about if they see a stray on the streets? 

Absolutely. So during the summer, we do tend to see an increase in cats and dogs coming into our already-crowded animal shelters for a number of reasons, and about 70% of lost dogs are found less than a mile from their home. So not every loose animal is lost. Or they may have just wandered a little bit further away from home.

The first thought for a lot of good Samaritans is bringing the animals to the shelter. But what we found is that they have such a far less chance of getting back home than if we could just walk them around the neighborhood. So if you do see a loose dog on your street, consider talking to your neighbors. Knock on a couple doors, see if you can leash the dog. See if it’ll actually lead you home.

Interesting. That’s good advice there. What about our long-haired friends? Should folks think about giving them a summer cut? Or is that maybe not the thing to do?

So for some of our double-coated breeds, it’s important not to give them that summer cut, because that double coat does protect them from the sun and the heat, and can actually help in keeping them cool. We just recommend keeping them inside as much as possible and avoid the hot parts of the day.

A good summer trim is certainly nice, but for those double-coated breeds, we do recommend not giving them that tight shave because it can actually cause their skin to even get sunburned.

You read my mind. Is it especially a pet with thinner hair or maybe one with lighter hair? Or are all outdoor animals at risk of this?

So we tend to see more sunburns on pets with lighter-colored fur or lighter-colored skin. Some of those kind of little fluffy white dogs might have a little bit of thinner fur and so the little light pink skin can get sunburned.

There is pet-friendly sunscreen. Or you can put like a little T-shirt.

Well, I guess the last question is really heat exhaustion. You know, we’re used to seeing a dog pant here and there, but what really are the signs that this has gotten extreme for our pets?

Yeah, that’s a great question. And unfortunately, in our shelters we see pets coming in in this state.

So if your dog is panting, always make sure that there is water nearby so that they have access to that water. Get them out of direct sunlight if you can.

If you notice that the dog has stopped panting or has closed its mouth and maybe is having difficulty getting up, having difficulty moving around, you have a dog or cat that’s suffering from dehydration or heat exhaustion, and you need to get them inside and access to water as quickly as possible.

Putting water on their paws is a really smart way to cool them down quickly. Don’t try to force water drinking, just try to get them inside and cooled off as quickly as possible.

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Copyright 2024 KERA

Kristen Cabrera | Texas Standard