Tips for Keeping Pets Cool In the Summer Heat

Relaxation mode: Achieved. Panama Jack's Ventilated Safari Excursion hat keeps you cool on even the hottest summer days, while our sun safety tips ensure your pet stays protected and happy, too.

Summertime is here, and right on cue, the temperatures have already begun to rise across the country. But while we humans have a number of ways to cool off when we need to—from seeking shade to taking a cold dip at the beach or pool, or even simply heading inside to soak up the AC when we need a break from the sun—our furry friends need a little extra help to beat the heat. As the days grow longer and hotter, it’s crucial to ensure that our beloved pets stay cool and safe. In fact, dogs, cats, and many other animals are just as susceptible to the effects of the scorching sun as we are, so we need to take a few additional precautions to protect them. 

The Importance of Keeping Pets Cool

First thing’s first: why is it so important to pay close attention to your pets’ well-being in the hotter months? The fact is that dogs and cats can suffer from a number of conditions that are most common in the summer, including heat stroke, dehydration, and even burned paws due to hot surfaces. 

Keeping our furry friends safe and comfortable year-round is simply the right thing to do. But even beyond that fact, it's also worth noting that neglecting to provide proper care for your pets may have legal consequences in some states. By taking proactive measures, you can ensure you and your pets stay cool, comfortable and safe this summer—and beyond.

General Temperature Considerations

Understanding temperature and its impact on your pet is crucial. Did you know:

  • Dogs are more susceptible to heat than humans due to their limited ability to cool down through sweating. While we can perspire to cool off, dogs can only sweat through glands in their paws, and they must rely primarily on panting to regulate their body temperature. This makes them more prone to heat-related illnesses throughout the year, but particularly in the hotter months. Avoid exercising your pet during the hottest hours of the day and substitute physical outdoor activities with indoor enrichment activities when necessary. 
  • Certain breeds are more susceptible to heat-related issues than others. Brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, with their short noses and flat faces, have a harder time regulating their body temperatures than some other breeds. Additionally, dogs with thick coats or underlying health conditions may also struggle more in the heat. It is a common misconception that you should shave your dog’s coat to help them stay cool, however, this can actually make your pet more susceptible to skin damage from the sun—and can even make cooling off more difficult for double-coated breeds. Familiarize yourself with your pet’s breed and work closely with your veterinarian to determine any specific efforts needed to keep your particular pet cool in the summer.
  • The temperature inside a parked car can skyrocket to dangerous levels within minutes, even on a relatively mild day. In fact, studies have shown that the inside of a car can be up to 40 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) hotter than the outside temperature. As a general rule, never leave your dog unattended in a vehicle. 
  • Outdoor surfaces can reach scorching temperatures that can harm paws. Asphalt, sand, and concrete can become blistering hot under the sun, leading to everything from mild discomfort to severe burns. Before taking your dog for a walk, test the pavement's temperature by placing the back of your hand on it for a few seconds. If it's too hot for your hand, it's too hot for your pet's paws. If you cannot avoid taking your pet out when outdoor surfaces are hot, be sure to provide them with well-fitting booties or shoes. 
  • Heat stroke can occur rapidly in pets, so know what to look for. Signs of heat stroke may include excessive panting, drooling, weakness, vomiting, and collapse. It's crucial to recognize these signs and take immediate action by moving your pet to a cool, shaded area, offering them cool water, and seeking veterinary care promptly. 

Remember, being aware of the impact of various temperatures on the well-being of your dog, cat or other furry friend is the first step in keeping your pets safe and cool during the hot summer months. 

Splashing into summer: As temperatures soar, our furry friends need a helping paw to beat the heat. For some breeds, a quick dip really hits the spot, but there are plenty of ways to keep them cool on land, as well.

Shade and Protection Around the Home

Creating shaded areas both inside and outside your home is essential for keeping your pets cool when they have nowhere else to go. Outdoors, set up outdoor umbrellas, canopies, or create a designated shady spot in your yard with tarps or shades. If the layout of your house permits, you might also consider a well-fitting dog door that provides insulation to keep the air conditioned temps in and the hot summer air out, while still allowing your dog or cat an easy way to come inside when they’re feeling overheated. 

Indoors, close curtains or blinds during the hottest parts of the day to block out direct sunlight (which can also help to mitigate expensive and energy-guzzling AC bills). Beyond that, make sure your pet has access to cool, well-ventilated areas where they can rest comfortably. And in either case, always be sure to provide access to fresh, cold water. 

The Importance of Water

More on that, because it’s just so important. Water is essential to keeping your pets hydrated and cool—and not just in the summer. Ensure that clean, fresh water is always available to them. Consider using portable water bowls or bottles when traveling or going for walks, offering it to them frequently throughout the day. While you’re out, water fountains can provide a continuous supply of fresh water, so don’t forget to refill along the way. At home, regularly check their water bowls to ensure they are clean and filled, especially during hot days.

Reminder to Never Leave Pets in Vehicles

This one is worth mentioning again, as well: Leaving pets unattended in vehicles, even for a short period, can be life-threatening—and is even illegal in some states. The temperature inside a car can rise rapidly, reaching dangerous levels within mere minutes, even with the windows cracked open. Heat exhaustion, heat stroke and organ failure can occur in the time it takes to run inside a store for a “quick” errand. Tragically, this sort of occurrence can lead to severe injury or even death, and it only takes moments. It's always safer to leave your pet at home in a cool, well-ventilated environment.

Things to Bring When You’re Out and About

  • Portable Water Bowl: This one’s a must in the summer! Bring a collapsible or portable water bowl for easy hydration on the go. These bowls are lightweight and can be easily stored in your bag, or even collapsed and clipped to the leash itself. 
  • Cooling Collar or Cooling Bandana: Cooling collars or bandanas are designed to keep your pet's neck area cool. These accessories are often made with special cooling materials or have pockets to insert ice packs. They can provide relief from the heat and help regulate your pet's body temperature.
  • Cooling Vest or Jacket: Cooling vests or jackets use evaporative cooling technology to keep your pet cool. These garments are typically soaked in water, and as the water evaporates, it creates a cooling effect. They can be particularly useful during outdoor adventures or longer walks, and you can re-soak them throughout your time outside.
  • Wet Towels: In that vein, you don’t need to buy a special cooling vest if you simply carry a small beach towel. Dampen the towel throughout the day to wrap around your pet's neck, legs, or belly. Wet towels help lower body temperature through evaporation, and can provide quick relief when your pet gets overheated.
  • Cooling Mat or Bed: Perfect for patios at home, cooling mats or beds contain cooling gel or have a self-cooling mechanism that activates upon contact. They provide a comfortable surface for your pet to lie on during the hottest summer days, or right after returning from a sunny walk outside. 
  • Portable Pop-Up Tent: For beach and lake trips, a small pop-up tent or canopy provides instant shade and a cool resting spot for your pet during outdoor activities. Most are lightweight, easy to transport, and offer protection from direct sunlight.
  • Frozen Treats: At home, prepare frozen treats for your pet to enjoy during hot days. You can freeze low-sodium chicken or beef broth in ice cube trays, or invest in specially designed pet popsicle molds which allow you to freeze yogurt, berries and other yummy summer treats. Just be sure to consult with your veterinarian about dietary restrictions for your dog, cat or other pet before preparing a new frozen treat for the first time.
  • Sunscreen for Pets: It’s true! Just like humans, pets can get sunburned—particularly animals with white- or light-colored fur. Thankfully, pet-friendly sunscreen exists! Apply it as indicated on all areas exposed to the sun, such as the nose, ears, and belly. 

What to Know About Sunscreen for Pets

Endless summer bliss: cherish every quiet moment with your dog this summer, but remember they're more susceptible to the heat even as the sun goes down. Prioritize sun safety to ensure you'll have many memorable summers to come.

Let’s delve a bit deeper into the idea of pet-friendly sunscreen. Just like humans, dogs can also experience sunburns and increased skin cancer risk from excessive sun exposure. Animal Cancer Foundation reminds pet owners that their furry friends with pink skin on the ears, nose and underbelly are most at risk. It's important to note that not all sunscreens are safe for pets. In fact, while they’re entirely safe for us to use, many human sunscreens contain ingredients that can be toxic to dogs and other pets, particularly because they tend to lick their coats and could ingest it. 

Beyond the risk of ingestion, pets may also have adverse reactions to the fragrances, dyes, or other chemicals present in human sunscreen products. Their skin can be more sensitive and susceptible to irritation overall. That’s why it’s crucial to use a sunscreen specifically formulated for pets. Pet-specific sunscreens are designed with the safety and well-being of animals in mind. These products are typically free from harmful ingredients and are formulated to be non-toxic.

What to Look for in a Sunscreen for Dogs and Other Pets:

When selecting a sunscreen for your pet, keep the following tips and considerations in mind:

  • Pet-Specific Sunscreen: Choose a sunscreen specifically formulated for dogs or pets. These products are designed to be safe if licked or ingested by your pet, and are less likely to contain harmful ingredients.
  • Broad-Spectrum Protection: Look for a pet-friendly sunscreen that offers Broad Spectrum protection, which means it shields against both UVA and UVB rays
  • PABA-Free: Avoid sunscreens that contain para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), as it can be toxic to pets if ingested. 
  • Fragrance and Dye-Free: Choose a pet-friendly sunscreen that is free of fragrances and dyes, as these additives can potentially irritate your pet's skin.
  • Waterproof or Water-Resistant: Select a sunscreen that is labeled as waterproof or water-resistant. This ensures that the protection remains effective even if your dog sweats or goes for a swim.

When in doubt—about pet-friendly sunscreen or any other tips for keeping your pet cool and safe on even the hottest days—consult your veterinarian if you have any specific questions or concerns. They can provide personalized advice based on your dog's breed, skin type, and individual needs. And with these tips and considerations in mind, you and your pet can stay cool and comfortable all summer long.