Summer heat is welcomed in many areas of the country, but Jordan Ranch and other Southeast Texas community members know that the heat here can be different. High temperatures and the unrelenting sun can lead to dangerous situations not only for people, but also for pets, especially those who are left in cars and backyards, or who simply exercise too vigorously and then cannot cool down efficiently. The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team shares ideas to keep pets cool this summer.
#1: Keep high-risk pets inside when possible
High-risk pets are those whose natural cooling mechanisms or body temperature regulation are compromised. These pets are more likely than the general pet population to suffer from heatstroke despite the same or cooler conditions, and are best left inside the air conditioning whenever possible. High-risk groups include:
- Brachycephalic breeds — Flat-faced breeds, especially pugs and English and French bulldogs, have less surface area and compromised air exchange, which limits how their panting works.
- Seniors or young puppies — These groups often have more difficulty regulating their body temperature.
- Pets with pre-existing health conditions — Heart disease, endocrine disorders, and airway conditions, including laryngeal paralysis or tracheal collapse, reduce a pet’s cooling abilities the same way as brachycephalic breeds.
- Overweight or obese pets — Excess body fat insulates pets from heat loss, so movement is more difficult and energy-consuming, and rapid overheating after minimal activity can result.
#2: Exercise your pet in the morning or evening
If your active pup’s temperament requires outdoor exercise, consider the coolest parts of the day—early morning and late evening. Avoiding the hot, mid-day sun will ensure pets get the activity they need without risking their health. Gradually increase the time you spend exercising them outdoors to help them acclimate to the climbing temperatures—a well-conditioned working dog can safely exercise in extreme conditions if they are acclimated and can adjust to the new environment slowly.
#3: Teach your pet to swim
Swimming is a great way for pets to simultaneously burn off energy and cool down, but most dogs need a few lessons before they become skilled swimmers. A professional at a local canine swim therapy facility can teach them, or you can guide them gently in the water, supporting their hind end as they learn to stay afloat, or using a life jacket. Always supervise pets in the water, especially new swimmers, or try a shallow baby pool or sprinkler to cool off pets who are nervous or who don’t enjoy swimming.
#4: Provide water, shade, and supervision when pets are outdoors
Water evaporation while they pant is a dog’s primary cooling mechanism, but they need good hydration for panting to be effective. Always provide plenty of cool water while outside, including on walks away from home. Plan shady walking routes when possible, add a shade structure if you don’t have natural tree cover in your yard, and never leave unsupervised pets in cars or outdoors to ensure they aren’t overheating.
#5: Try out a summer pet haircut
Shaving your pet down may seem like a great idea for summer, but this isn’t always the best option. A professional groomer can help determine your pet’s ideal cut—some breeds benefit from a trim, others require hand-stripping, and others do well completely shaved, depending on hair type and thickness, and whether the coat is designed to keep them warm, cool, or both.
#6: Learn how to identify heatstroke and take life-saving action
Heatstroke can happen quickly and be deadly in hours or days, so swift action is needed for your pet to have the best chance to recover. Cool your pet by wetting their fur, avoiding ice-cold water or ice. Seek immediate veterinary care if your pet is exposed to heat and develops the following signs:
- Disorientation, stumbling, weakness, or collapse
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Unexplained bleeding or bruising
- Extreme panting
- Fast or irregular heart rate
When temperatures are through the roof, follow our tips to keep you and your pet cool. Jordan Ranch and other Neighborhood Veterinary Centers locations are always standing by to help with your pet’s summer care needs. Call us to schedule a wellness examination, vaccine boosters, or parasite consultation, or if you notice heatstroke or stress signs in your pet. Contact your nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency facility for urgent care if we are unavailable after hours, because your pet’s life is at stake and seconds and minutes count.