Moment of Paws: Tips on how to keep your pets safe during summertime

It seems like the dog days of summer have come early this year. In the past month we have seen a number of days exceed 90 degrees, with the heat compounded by high humidity. When the temperature rises, it’s important for us as pet owners to find the right balance of giving our pets the outdoor time they need, but doing so in a safe manner.

While it’s easy to be mindful of taking preventive measures when the heat index is off the charts, it’s a good rule of thumb to remember that when the mercury rises over 75 degrees, so does the risk of heat-related injury or illness.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston shares 5 tips to keep your pets safe this summer:
• Outdoor time should be limited to bathroom breaks and short walks, and exercise should be kept to early morning and early evening hours when temperatures are at their coolest.

• Be mindful of hot surfaces that can burn your pet’s paws. Asphalt, concrete, brick, wood, sand, and other surfaces can absorb the heat from the sun causing their temperatures to exceed 145 degrees! To prevent injury, always place the back of your hand on a surface for seven seconds; if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws. Products like paw balm and booties can be used, but only for short intervals, since dog’s sweat glands are located on their paws.

• Keep up with grooming. Not only does a fresh cut keep your pet looking and feeling good, but for long-haired dogs, grooming is vital. Fur acts as a natural weather control so there is no need to have their coat completely shaved, however regular brushing can help thin down a thick winter coat to keep your dog comfortable.

• Make sure your pet always has access to shade and fresh water to keep them cool and hydrated. Panting is the most effective way for dogs to cool themselves down, but if you have a bulldog, pug, or other short-nosed dog, be aware that these breeds have smaller airways and can have more difficulty breathing during hot periods than their long-nosed counterparts.

• Never leave your dog alone in a hot car, even with the windows cracked. When the temperature rises, it’s Too Hot for Spot®! When in doubt, leave your dog at home in a temperature-controlled, comfortable environment and give them access to plenty of fresh water.

Keep yourself and your pets safe and cool during these long, hot summer days, and if at any time you feel that your pet may be experiencing a heat-related medical emergency, please seek veterinary help immediately – every second counts!
Dr. Edward Schettino is the president and CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Boston. He has a doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Pet questions? Email ARL at press@arlboston.org.