Dog days of summer: Protecting your pets through Georgia heat

  • Published
  • Robins Veterinary Treatment Facility

Summer is fast approaching in Middle Georgia. Soon the children will be out of school on summer break and many people start traveling across our beautiful nation.


Staying cool in the Georgia sunshine can be challenging for all us, especially our four-legged friends. Our furry companions have become an integral part of many peoples’ lives.


As many of you prepare to take part in summer leisure activities, it is essential to keep in mind the difference in our pet’s anatomy. Although we are similar, we are not quite the same.


Dogs are only able to sweat in areas not naturally covered by fur, such as their nose and paw pads. Dogs cool themselves off by panting, so it is harder for them to stay cool on hot summer days. Dogs will start excessively panting, display signs of discomfort, and may be unable or unwilling to move if they are experiencing stress from heat.


Signs that your dog needs medical interventions can include drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness, loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movements and collapse.


Cats, on the other hand, use grooming to help lower their temperatures during the hotter months. As their saliva evaporates off their hair, it cools down the air around their skin. Warning signs for cats experiencing heat stress can be vague but are something an owner should know. Cats will become restless or start seeking cold spots. Your cat may also have sweaty paw pads, start excessively drooling, and may show signs of excessive grooming.


Any open mouth breathing similar to a dog panting is a sign that your cat needs medical intervention. Other signs to look out for are redness of the mouth, vomiting, lethargy, and stumbling.


Staying cool at home:

- Provide plenty of chilled or room temperature water for them to drink, while avoiding ice-cold water as it can potentially cause other complications to your pet, such as bloating.  

- Keep their environment cool or have shady areas for them to cool down.

- If your pet is overheating, let them lay down on a damp towel.

- Limit outdoor recreations with your pets during the summer months, or choose to be outside during cooler parts of the day.


In an emergency:

- Immediately notify your local veterinary clinic or veterinary emergency center.

- Offer your pet fresh water, but avoid ice-cold water.

- Apply alcohol to the ears, paw pads and groin area.

- Place ice packs underneath the front and back legs.


Pet travel recommendations:

- If your pet does not do well with traveling, consider using a pet sitter or boarding your pet at a kennel.

- Do not forget you will need a health certificate for all airline travel and interstate travel. Since it is illegal to issue a health certificate without a physical exam, please contact your veterinarian to set up an appointment.

- If your pet is on any medication or supplements, ensure you have enough in case of delays.  

- Your travel destination may expose your pet to preventable illnesses or parasites – plan and ensure you have heartworm, intestinal parasite, flea and tick prevention for your pet.

- Reduce travel stress and anxiety for your pet by using a pheromone spray or collar. There are many products available at your local pet store or through an online pet vendor.

- Securely place a frozen wet towel inside your pet carrier. As the water starts to melt your pet will have chilled water to cool them. Supervise your pet to avoid accidental ingestion of towel.

- Implement the work-rest-cycle, or the play-rest-cycle, for your pets too.

- Never leave your pet in a car alone. Cars can overheat fast even if in the shade or with the windows cracked. In addition, even leaving the air conditioner on for your animal in the vehicle, car failures can still happen and may be fatal for your animal.