What Are the Best Practices for Keeping a Pet Safe During a Heatwave?

February 3, 2024

As we bid farewell to the cool, tranquil breezes of spring and welcome the sizzling summer sun, there’s a lot to look forward to. Barbecues, beach trips, and balmy evenings spent under starlit skies. But while we humans might revel in this sun-soaked season, for our furry friends it can be a time of discomfort, and at worst, danger. Yes, we’re talking about heatwaves. When the mercury shoots up, it’s crucial that you know how to protect your pets from the harsh weather. This article will help you to understand the best practices for keeping your pet safe during a heatwave.

Recognizing the Signs of Heatstroke in Pets

Being able to identify the signs of heatstroke could save your pet’s life. Unlike humans, cats and dogs can’t sweat through their skin. They only sweat through their foot pads and nose, which is not enough to cool their bodies during a heatwave. As a result, they can quickly overheat, leading to heatstroke.

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Heatstroke is a serious condition that can cause organ failure and even death if not treated promptly. Some of the signs to watch out for in your pet include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor, or even collapse. They might also show symptoms like seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.

If any of these symptoms are present, it’s essential to get your pet to a vet immediately. However, prevention is always the best approach when it comes to heatstroke.

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How to Keep Your Pet Cool During a Heatwave

When temperatures rise, it’s essential to provide your pet with a cool, comfortable environment. Start by ensuring they have access to shade at all times. If your pet is kept outside, make sure their kennel is in a shaded area and consider using a pet-friendly sunblock on their skin.

Next, provide plenty of fresh, cool water. Hydration is key to helping your pet stay cool, so make sure their water bowl is always full and consider adding ice cubes to keep it extra cool. Alternatively, consider purchasing a pet water fountain which can keep water cooler for longer periods.

Another great way to keep your pet cool is by using cooling mats, which can help lower your pet’s body temperature. Paddling pools are also a fun and effective way to cool down dogs during hot weather.

Exercise and Weather: What to Keep in Mind

Exercise is vital for your pet’s health, but during a heatwave, it’s important to adjust your routine to prevent overheating. Try to walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening when the temperature is cooler.

Always test the pavement with your hand before you start your walk. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Alternatively, consider investing in doggie boots, which can protect your pet’s paws from the hot pavement.

Remember, intense exercise is not advisable during a heatwave. Keep walks short and slow, and always bring water for both you and your pet.

The Dangers of Leaving Your Pet in a Hot Car

Leaving a pet inside a hot car can lead to fatal heatstroke within minutes. Even if the car is parked in the shade or the windows are cracked open, the temperature inside the car can quickly skyrocket.

If you have to travel with your pet during a heatwave, make sure the car is air-conditioned and take regular breaks to allow your pet to drink water and cool down. Never leave your pet unattended in a car, even for a short amount of time.

Remember, if you see a pet locked in a hot car, you should immediately call animal control or the police. You could save an animal’s life.

The Role of Diet in Keeping Pets Cool

What your pet eats can also impact how they cope with the heat. During a heatwave, it’s crucial to feed your pet a balanced, nutritious diet to keep them healthy and hydrated.

Fresh, wet food is a great option during hot weather as it contains more moisture than dry kibble. Feeding your pet frozen treats is also a fun and effective way to keep them cool and hydrated. You could freeze pieces of fruit or make ice cubes out of dog-friendly broth.

In conclusion, during a heatwave, it’s essential to stay vigilant and take steps to protect your pet from the heat. By recognizing the signs of heatstroke, keeping your pet cool, adjusting exercise routines, never leaving your pet in a hot car, and feeding them a suitable diet, you can ensure your pet stays safe and comfortable all summer long. Pay attention to your pet’s behavior and consult a veterinarian if you notice any unusual signs. With the right precautions, your pet can have a safe and enjoyable summer, no matter the temperature.

Pet Insurance and Heatwave-Related Illnesses

Ensuring your pet’s health and safety includes having a good pet insurance policy in place. While we hope you’ll never need to use it for a heat-related illness, the reality is that the risk of heatstroke is real, and treatment can be expensive.

Pet insurance typically covers vet bills for illnesses and injuries, but coverage can vary. Some policies may cover heat-related illnesses; others may not. The editorial team at your insurance company should be able to provide clear information on this.

If your policy does cover heat-related illnesses, it can provide peace of mind. If your pet does fall ill during a heatwave, you can focus on getting them the medical help they need without worrying about the cost.

However, remember that while insurance is valuable, it’s not a substitute for preventing heatstroke in the first place. Continuously strive to minimize exposure to extreme heat, and remember the best practices mentioned before: provide shade and cold water, monitor their body temperature, exercise during cooler hours, and never leave your pet in a hot car.

Air Conditioning and Other Cooling Systems

As part of your efforts to keep your pet safe during a heatwave, you should consider the role of air conditioning and other cooling systems. These can be instrumental in keeping your pet’s body temperature at a safe level.

If you have air conditioning in your home, make sure it’s on and set to a comfortable temperature during heatwaves. Remember, what feels comfortable for you might still be too hot for your pet, so observe their behavior closely and adjust the temperature as necessary.

If you don’t have air conditioning, don’t worry – there are still steps you can take. Consider purchasing a fan for the area where your pet spends most of their time. Always make sure your pet has a cooler place to retreat to – this could be a shaded outdoor spot, a room with a fan, or a basement.

Consider using a cooling mat or vest designed for pets. These products can significantly help in reducing your pet’s body temperature during hot weather. Always provide plenty of cool water and, if possible, a small paddling pool where they can cool down.


A heatwave can be a dangerous time for pets, but with knowledge and preparation, you can keep your furry friend safe. Remember to watch for signs of heatstroke, provide plenty of fresh, cool water, and create a comfortable, cool environment. Adjust your pet’s exercise routine, be mindful of their diet, and never leave them in a hot car.

Consider the benefits of pet insurance and the role of air conditioning and cooling systems. Above all, stay vigilant. If you notice any signs of distress or heat exhaustion, contact your vet immediately.

By following these best practices, you are prioritizing your pet’s safety and well-being. And remember, with the help of the Red Cross or other local animal welfare organizations, you are never alone in facing these challenges.

Here’s to a safe, enjoyable summer for you and your pet, no matter how high the temperatures soar. Your efforts to keep your pet cool, hydrated, and happy during the hot season can result in a rewarding and bonding experience. Let’s all pledge to keep our pets safe this summer.