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Posted on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 8 a.m.

Understanding a pet's special needs in the hot weather is important

By Lorrie Shaw


Lorrie Shaw | Contributor

One phrase that won't be misplaced this week is, "Is it hot enough for you?"

You have to be smart about this weather, and with the hot temperatures that are here this week, it's no wonder: Heat stress can take hold quickly, especially in those who are prone to heat related illness.

Have you thought about the impact on pets?

Yes, pets feel the effects of the hot weather, just as we do. A good rule of thumb: If you are uncomfortable, so are your pets.

The hot weather can affect the well-being of pets equally as it does humans — especially young ones, sick ones and, especially, senior pets.

And let's be honest. Some dogs are not well-suited to hot climates. Some thrive in cool climates and have a much more difficult time tolerating summer temperatures.

The geographic mobility that some breeds have attained due to our affinity for them has worked much to their detriment, and being mindful of their special needs should be in the forefront of owners' minds, especially where the weather is concerned.

Some breeds, like Labrador retrievers and Border Collies, are genetically predisposed to conditions that are exacerbated by the heat, like Exercise Induced Collapse and Border Collie Collapse, respectively. Read about them both here.

All dogs are not created equal, certainly, but they all need special consideration in the hot, humid weather.

Here are as few tips to keep in mind:

Provide adequate shelter and limit activity

Just like humans, pets require proper shelter from the sun. I frequently hear: "Oh, dogs are meant to be outdoors, they know what to do." It's true, they do!

They are smart enough to seek refuge in shady spots or a sheltered area. They typically take siestas when the temperatures are at their highest, to allow their bodies to stay cool.

If at all possible, keep them indoors in the air conditioning. If you must keep your pets outdoors, be sure that they are sheltered from the sun and in a secure place.

If you exercise your pets, do so in the morning when the effects of the heat are at their lowest, and take things slowly! The onset of heat stroke can happen quickly, even in healthy pets.

By clicking here, you can read about how to identify the signs of heat stroke, and what to do in the event that it happens to a pet.

Keep activity on the streets safe

Don't let your pooch linger on hot concrete or asphalt. Because they are so close the ground, your pet's body heats up quickly, and paw pads can burn as they are sensitive.

When I'm walking clients, I always walk them on the grass. (Use care to check for signs that a lawn has been freshly fertilized or treated with pesticides and avoid those areas.)

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water for your pet, every day. We keep bowls inside, of course, and also set fresh bowls outside each morning while our dogs play so that they can drink at their leisure.

Don't leave your pets in the car

Temperatures can rise quickly in a parked car. I typically don't transport my pets in the car if the temperature is over 75 degrees. Before you scoff, think of this: Temperatures inside a parked car rapidly climb to more than 100 degrees and can cause death sometimes in just a few minutes.

It is hard to look at them and say no, but it's for your furry companion's own good. Even if you have air conditioning in your vehicle, keep in mind that anything could happen — your vehicle could break down, you could get into an accident and be stuck out in the harsh elements.

One word to the wise: There is no such thing as an errand that takes just a few minutes, and by clicking here you can see just how hot it gets inside of a vehicle — even if it's parked in the shade.

Don't forget the sunscreen

Pets get sunburn, too. Read more here.

Know the signs of overheating

It's difficult especially for pets with flat faces, like pugs and Persian cats — they can't pant as efficiently so extra care needs to be taken. Pets with lung or heart disease need to be treated with special attention, too. Dr. Lila Miller, ASPCA vice president of veterinary outreach explains, here.

If you suspect that your pet is experiencing difficulty, get it to a veterinary care professional immediately.

Lorrie Shaw is leads the pets section for and writes about pet health, behavior, pet culture and more. She is aprofessional dog walker and pet sitter serving the Ann Arbor area. Email her directly.



Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Carefully watch Northern dogs, such as Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. They can only tolerate the heat for minutes. Keep their walks short, and try to walk them only in the mornings and evenings. Other animals are also susceptible to this heat. Horses should not be worked AT ALL when the heat index is 120 or above. (Temp+Humidity=Heat index) Some horses sunburn, as well. All un-pigmented horses will burn...breeds like American paints, and white (not grey horses) burn. Skin cancer will kill a horse. We keep our horses in their stalls with their fans on and hose them down during the heat of the day. They are turned out in the early mornings, and late evenings. If your horses are on pasture board, monitor their run-ins to make sure the alpha horses are not preventing other horses from entering the run ins. Check their water frequently...and hose, hose, hose. Sorry for butting in on your territory, Lorrie. This just needed to be said.


Thu, Jun 28, 2012 : 6:49 p.m.

@Ann I believe Hansen was a Grey....Meaning the skin under the horse's coat is black. These horses are not as susceptible to skin cancer. Horses with white fur, and pink. unpigmented skin are very vulnerable to skin cancer. My Registered American Paint has a pink nose, and a area. I use Desitin, which contains zinc oxide on her nose and vulva. Today, she and all of the horses will be indoors in front of their fans all day, receiving occasional hose downs.


Thu, Jun 21, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

You are absolutely correct, Ann. All horses are vulnerable to heat exhaustion. I would argue one thing. Jockeys have NO say in how the horses are treated before or after racing. They are simply competing on a horse owned by someone else. (at great personal peril.) Horse races are OFTEN conducted in extreme heat and humidity. A horse can only do moderate work (W,T,C) when the heat and humidity is high for 17 minutes. (this from an article in Equus magazine). I just drove by my horse's barn, refilled their water, and everyone got a good hosedown...including me. If it's 90 degrees or more, my horse gets a visit from me...some grooming, and that's it.

Ann English

Thu, Jun 21, 2012 : 12:39 a.m.

Hope that Hansen (the white horse in last month's Kentucky Derby) doesn't get skin cancer. What you say reminds me of Unbridled, who ran in the Belmont Stakes of 2000 and got overheated. He got the water he desperately needed immediately. So race horses are just as vulnerable to the heat as other horses; what happened to Unbridled could happen to any horse. Your information is most likely info that all horse jockeys know and practice.

Lorrie Shaw

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

Wise info, julieswhimsies. Surely a hose in hand in a common sight in the summer months at facilities with horses. Thanks for chiming in!

Woman in Ypsilanti

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 6:08 p.m.

I do have a solution to the parked car problem. Sun roof. An open sun roof combined with open windows means that the inside of the car stays the same temperature as the outside. I have tested this with thermometers! I still don't leave them long but this knowledge has been really helpful in situations when I have been traveling alone and needed to take a rest stop.


Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 10:29 p.m.

NEVER leave your dog in an enclosed car when it is even warm. You leave all the windows open?! Your dog could jump out and get hit by a car, or stolen. Sunroofs made my former car actually hotter. We took a road trip to Portland, Oregon last summer with our dog. She stayed outside with someone else holding her on a leash. When I am alone, she goes in with me. That is the proper thing to do. No one has EVER complained when I've done that. I do get a lot of compliments on how cute she is, though. If I see a dog locked in a car on a hot day, I call 911.

Sarah Rigg

Tue, Jun 19, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

I'm never sure about cats - mine seem to LOVE the heat, the hotter the better! They were hanging out in the screened in porch all day one of the last times it peaked around 90. They do get shade out there and they do have a water bowl that's topped off frequently, but I wonder if I should chase them into the air conditioning occasionally...

Lorrie Shaw

Wed, Jun 20, 2012 : 12:12 p.m.

Sarah: I think most cats love the heat! Ours begs to go out so that he can lie in his favorite spot on the deck (and he actually kicks his feet up!). I do make him come inside after awhile, and he always seems so unhappy. ;)