Last week, we had a day or two of record-breaking high temps. It was just a taste of the summer heat, but we put our warm weather policy in place for our dogs, cats and people at the Humane Society for Greater Savannah. And I am reminded that my large shepherds are another year older and need to take it easy as the summer heat descends upon Savannah.
Obviously, I have air-conditioning at home. But my dogs love being outdoors, hiking around and playing at the dog park. I find they are a little lazier once the temperatures start to climb. Here are a few tips about keeping pets cool in the heat:
Hydrate: Make sure your pet has access to fresh, cool water. At the Humane Society, we freeze water bottles and put them in our dogs’ water dishes to keep them cold (and it gives them something to play with if they are so inclined).
Cool off in a pool or sprinkler: Maybe your dog would be happy lying down in a kiddie pool filled with water or running through the sprinkler with your children. Empty it regularly so it doesn’t become a mosquito breeding pond. And dry your dog off so the skin doesn’t stay damp and harbor bacteria or yeast in this humid climate. Skin infections are no fun in the summer heat.
Limit exercise: Some of our pets don’t know when to stop; they’ll chase that tennis ball or gladly follow you on the trail despite being too hot or dehydrated. You’ll have to determine when it’s time to have a break and cooling-off period.
Fans don’t work: Animals cool themselves differently than humans do — panting, sweating through their feet and sprawling with their bellies on the cold tile help them regulate their temperature.
Stay in the shade: It can be cooler there! And some dogs, like humans, are more prone to sunburn than others. However, a dog house or shelter is more likely to become a sauna, so a tree or open air tarp would be the best solution.
Hot surfaces: Think about walking across hot pavement in your bare feet and how it burns. Be careful with your pet walking on hot pavement, hot sand or paving stones. If the surface is too hot for the back of your hand after a few seconds, it’s too hot for your pet to walk or lie on.
Humidity matters: High humidity can make it more difficult for a pet to pant and cool down. This is especially true for shorter-nosed dogs that already have difficulty breathing effectively.
Grooming: My dogs and cats need regular (weekly/daily) brushing during the change of seasons. Their winter undercoat needs to be shed and a little help with a brush or rake removes that furry insulating coat and keeps mats at bay.
And, it bears repeating (as I saw another dog left in a car this past weekend): Never leave your pet in the car unattended in this heat. Not even for a minute, not even with the car running and air conditioning on. Not parked in the “shade.” On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows slightly open can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes and will continue to climb.
Enjoy the dog days of summer!
Michelle Thevenin is the executive director of Humane Society for Greater Savannah, 7215 Sallie Mood Drive. She can be reached by phone at Shelter Operations at 912-354-9515, at Pet Fix Savannah at 912-354-6265, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.