How to keep your dogs and cats cool when it's hot

Rising temperatures — Philly is currently bracing for what could be a 10-day heat wave — mean that we’re all looking for ways to cool off, and that includes your pets. Hot weather can be dangerous for your furry friends in a number of ways, from causing heatstroke to injuring paw pads. Here’s what you should be looking out for and how to prevent your dog or cat from extensive discomfort.

Hydration is important

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Hydration is important on hot days.

Like humans, pets can get dehydrated when they spend too much time outside during the summer. It’s important to keep them supplied with clean, cold water throughout the day, especially after exercising.

“One thing I’d recommend is carrying water and a bowl with you when you take your dog out on a walk,” Ken Drobatz, the director of emergency services at Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, said. “They can get parasites if they drink out of puddles or unclean water at the dog park, which can lead to gastrointestinal sickness.”

Putting ice cubes in your dog’s water dish can keep it cold for longer as well.

>> READ MORE: How my pug taught me to be an adult

Exercise your pet wisely

When dogs overheat outside, you’ll see them slow down. They also won’t be able to stop panting. Overheating can lead to collapsing, vomiting, or unconsciousness, so you want to make sure that you don’t overexercise Fido.

“When dogs overheat, they can get bloody diarrhea and experience seizures,” Drobatz said. “If you see signs of overheating in your dog, you should cool them down with water and keep them in cool places.”

Drobatz said skipping walks every now and then because it’s too hot is not a problem — the consequences can be much worse. He also recommended taking walks at night when temperatures have cooled down a bit.

But if you have a cat, you won’t have to worry as much.

“Cats are naturally desert animals,” Drobatz said. “On the hottest of days, they will decrease their activity and find a cool area to just lay there. They won’t overexercise.”

Avoid leaving your pets in the car

Hot cars are as dangerous for your pets as they are for your kids. Dogs and cats can get sick very quickly as temperatures skyrocket in just minutes.

“When you feel like it’s really hot, it’s even hotter for your dog,” Drobatz said. “They have a fur coat, and being in a hot car can quickly spiral out of control.”

Take special care if you have a brachycephalic dog

Dogs cool down by sweating through their paw pads and breathing, so brachycephalic dogs, such as bulldogs and pugs, naturally have more trouble lowering their temperatures than other dogs because they can’t breathe as well. Humidity can worsen things for them as well.

“If they overheat, they can go into heatstroke and even experience organ failure,” Drobatz said. “If you need to cool your dog down faster, you can spray water on their faces.”

Pool safety

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Chihuahua wearing pink flower shirt and sunglasses on the beach.

While some dogs love paddling and splashing in your pool, not all are great swimmers. Never leave your dog alone near a body of water, and make sure to use flotation devices if they’re not confident in the water. Rinse your dog off after a swim as well — chlorine and salt can irritate their skin.

Hot pavement

Before taking your dog on a walk, touch the pavement to make sure it’s cool enough for their feet. Hot pavement and hot sand can cause burns on paw pads, which can get infected. In hot weather, maggots can also develop in those wounds.

“Use common sense,” Drobatz said. “If it’s too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for your dog.”