Summer is almost here and you’ll more than likely make plans to take your dogs or cats on road trips to the beach, a few backyard barbecues and maybe even to the big family reunion. But it’s going to get hot outside and your pet may not be completely equipped to handle the South Texas heat. Here are numerous guidelines to keep your cat or dog cool in the summer.

Valley Animal Hospital in McAllen is available if you have any questions regarding your pet’s health during the summer months.  

Health Reasons

Cats and dogs get hot for two major reasons: hypothermia and upper respiratory systems. Hypothermia happens when an animal is trapped in an environment that overwhelms their capabilities to keep themselves cool. For instance, if your pet is outside on a hot day with no shade or is locked inside a car with the windows up, it can place them in danger.

According to Douglas Aspros, DVM and President of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “Both dogs and cats dissipate heat by panting as they get overheated. They pant more quickly trying to maintain a safe internal temperature.” If they have a compromised upper airway, like bulldogs, or an acquired condition like paralysis of the larynx, they’ll have more difficulty expelling heat through panting. Exerting themselves like this can make them susceptible to heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Labored breathing
  • Increased heart and respiratory rates
  • Drooling
  • Mild Weakness

Severe symptoms include:

  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Body temperatures of 104 degrees or higher

If you believe your pet is suffering heatstroke, see our vet immediately. If one is not available, moving your dog to a shady spot and submerging them in cool water can help. Make sure the water isn’t too cold though, as it can restrict blood flow. Ice packs or cold towels on your pet’s chest and neck will help to gradually cool them.

Sunrise/Sunset Walks

The time you spend with your cat or dog outdoors should be early in the morning or early in the evening when the sun is going down. The ground is fresher during these times and is easier on your pet’s paws. The fresher air is also easier to inhale.

It’s Hot Outside

If you and your pet are out and about, try to walk them on grass. Hot streets and concrete sidewalks can burn their paws. Afterwards, when they’re inside, you might notice them laying on the kitchen or tiled floor. Leave them alone. The hard floor is a way for them to keep their bodies cool.

Heat Kills

Do not leave your pets in a locked car while unattended! Temperatures can quickly rise up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in a vehicle. As much as they enjoy riding in the car with you, leave them at home if pets are prohibited wherever it is you’re traveling to.

Stay Hydrated

One of the indications of overheating is dehydration. If your cat or dog is with you while you’re out, be sure to take plenty of water. If you have a puppy or kitten, milk is a good alternative. If you see your pet panting while drinking, don’t worry. The panting is helpful as it helps fluid evaporate from the respiratory tract.

Prone to Threats

Your pet’s breed is important when trying to keep them cool in the summer. Certain types such as Pugs, Pekinese, Boston Terriers or even Persian cats cannot pant effectively. They are members of the brachycephalic family, meaning they are animals with flat-shaped faces with wide skulls. Due to this, brachycephalic animals have a harder time panting in hot weather.

The cartilage and soft tissue inside their noses are crammed within a small space, causing the nostrils to narrow. This blocks the airflow through their upper airways. If you own an older cat or dog, try to keep them in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible when temperatures are high.

Don’t Cut Their Fur

If you’re thinking of shaving your dog’s fur, hold off on that electric razor. Cutting or shaving your dog is not the best way to keep them cool. DVM and author Louise Murray says, “The furs on their skin are like insulation in a house. Insulation stops your home from getting too cold in the winter, but it also keeps it from overheating in the summer – and your dog’s coat does the same thing.” Trimming their fur is fine as long as it’s done by a professional.

A Healthy Diet

What your pet eats is another important factor. If you plan on attending a backyard barbecue with your dog, just remember that some of the things that guests eat could be dangerous for your pet. Avoid feeding him/her grapes, raisins, onions, chocolates and, of course, alcohol. Just like humans, alcohol can quickly dehydrate your dog, cause intoxication and serious illness.

Pool Lounging

A quick dip in the pool is always a great way to cool off as long as it is under supervision. Since not all animals are good swimmers, floatation devices are available at most pet stores. Just be sure your dog does not drink pool water. The chlorine and other chemicals can upset their stomachs. After the swim, rinse them off so all chlorine and salts do not stay on their fur.


If you plan on popping some fireworks on the 4th of July, then leave your pet inside and away from the show. A cat or dog exposed to lit fireworks can leave severe burns, harm their hearing or even traumatize them.

Unused fireworks present a different danger. Most brands use toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, arsenic and other heavy metals. Be sure your dog does not eat or chew on them. If your dog does ingest a potentially hazardous substance, call our vets or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435 for immediate assistance.

Schedule an Early Summer Check-Up

Valley Animal Hospital of McAllen wants you and your pets to have a playful summer. Schedule an appointment to bring your furry loved one in for an early summer check-up. Valley Animal Hospital sees dogs of all sizes, cats of all attitudes, birds of all colors, rabbits of all fluffiness and pocket pets of all varieties.

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