As I write this, it is hailing cats and dogs (haha!) outside, so it’s understandable if you may have forgotten this, but summer is just around the corner! If you’ve lived in San Antonio for at least five minutes, I’m sure you are aware of how miserably hot it can get here, so now seems as good a time as any to talk about how to keep our pets safe and cool this summer. You may think that the only pets you need to worry about are outdoor pets, but think again! When the temperatures start to rise, all of our pets can be susceptible to heat related sickness or injury. Included in this blog are some ways to help make sure that you and your pets have a safe and wonderful summer!

1. Do some research before shaving

It’s natural to assume that your pet would be more comfortable running around in the blazing sun with a lighter coat, which is why many pet owners decide to cut or even shave their furkids during the summer months. It’s important to note though that fur coats function not only to keep our pets warm in the winter but also to help them regulate their body temperature in the warmer months. Cats are especially good at regulating body heat, and most experts agree that they gain no benefit from being shaved unless it is for health or sanitation reasons. For dogs, there are certain situations in which shaving might be best, but it’s important to consult with a veterinarian beforehand to make sure that the risks don’t outweigh the benefits. Always make sure at least an inch of fur is left when getting your pets’ summer cuts, as this will help protect them from sunburn and skin cancer.

Side note….if you have a malamute or husky, it is especially important to consult with your vet before deciding to shave them. In fact, this is true for any double coated dog including labs, golden retrievers, German shepherds, St. Bernards, Chows, etc. Most experts and vets agree that shaving a double coated dog breed is never a good idea unless medically necessary.

2. Always provide plenty of water and shelter

This is a more obvious one, but, if you have outdoor dogs, remember that they are likely to go through their water supply twice as fast as they did just a few months before, so always keep an eye on the bowls to make sure they have plenty of water and that they remain accessible. For families with multiple pets or large dogs, it could help to purchase an automatic waterer that holds more water or, if they are outside dogs, to fill up a small kiddie pool with water for them to use to cool down. Try to keep their water source in a shady place where it won’t be directly exposed to the sun, and, if you provide your pets with water from a hose that’s in the sun, let the water run for a few minutes before filling up your pets’ bowl to avoid serving them up a bowl full of steaming hot water. If your pets won’t have access to the inside of your home on a regular basis, make sure they have a cool, shady place to relax in the yard or on the porch during those sunny afternoons. A fan or misting system can help them beat the heat too!

3. Time your walks carefully

We all know that there are some dogs (ahem..labs) that will walk any time any day in any weather no matter what. It could be 25 degrees or 125 degrees and they’re ready to go the moment they hear the “W” word (you know you have a lab if you have to spell that word to avoid complete doggie meltdown). BUT, for most pets, any walk that lasts for an extended period of time in 90+ degree weather isn’t fun for the dogs and, honestly, isn’t all that fun for their humans either. When possible, walk your dogs in the mornings or evenings during the summer and shorten their afternoon walk to only what is necessary. When walking, try to seek out shaded areas with grass for your dogs to walk on. Always carry water with you and be observant of your dog’s behavior to look for signs of heat exhaustion. Try to avoid walking dogs with vastly different energy levels at the same time, and, if you have a dog with little or no hair or a dog that’s been closely shaved, look into doggie sunscreens (Yes that’s a thing…Google it : ).

4. Microchip and tag!

Most of us already know enough to tag our pets. It’s cheap and easy, and it gives us peace of mind. Having tags significantly increases the chances of a good Samaritan picking your dog up if they see them in danger, and it makes reunification so much easier. However, why bet your pet’s safety on a ½ inch piece of fabric around their neck when you don’t have to? Having your pets’ microchipped is one of the best things you can do to protect them regardless of the time of year, but summer comes with its own sets of risks. Pet owners go out of town more often during the summer, opening their pets up to running off while at the beach or lake with their family, jumping out of the back of a truck or SUV, or digging out of the yard while their families are out of town. July 4th celebrations can be a nightmare for pets, and those that are left unsupervised outdoors have been known to go to great lengths to get out of a yard or kennel that they’ve never even tried to get out of before. In addition to your pet having more opportunities to get out, the intense heat can also make escape more dangerous for them, as they may no longer have access to appropriate water and shelter after they are separated from their owners. The first thing anyone who finds your pet will do is get them checked for a microchip. The average veterinarian will charge $45 to have the chip implanted, but do your research and you can probably find it even cheaper. The SNAP clinic offers discounted microchipping as well as several veterinary offices.

5. DON’T leave your pets in a hot car!

This one doesn’t require much explanation. Just…don’t….do it. Not for just ten minutes, not just while you run in to pick something up, not with the windows cracked. Just don’t.  (Don’t!)

6. Know your breed

You may have done loads of research before finally deciding on the perfect dog breed for your family, or maybe you went to a local shelter and picked out whichever dog gave you the most convincing “please take me home with you” look. Either way, it’s important to be as knowledgeable as you can about your breed, as this can have a significant impact on how they handle the summer heat. For example, pugs and bulldogs have more constricted airways, making their panting less effective and causing them to be more susceptible to heat stroke. Breeds with no hair or very little hair can easily get skin cancer or sunburn, while dogs with exceptionally thick coats like malamutes or huskies may need more breaks from the heat as well.

These are just a few of the most common ways that pets can be exposed to dangerous situations during the summer, but we all know that our furry loved ones have their own creative ways of finding trouble, and there are lots of other things to keep an eye out for.  Sometimes keeping our pets happy and healthy can feel like a full time job, but they just make it so worth it!  What kinds of things do you to do help keep your dogs safe and happy during the crazy hot summers?