The DOG DAYS of summer

By Ann Stacker, DVM at Paso Petcare

As we all know, our Paso summers can be brutally HOT! Every year we treat pets for heat-related problems including everything from burns on foot pads to serious heat stroke. Keep in mind that your dog or cat not only has a normal body temperature much higher than ours but a furry coat as well!

There are many ways to help your pet through the heat of summer; here are a few simple but critical precautions:

Make sure there is access to shade or an air conditioned shelter at
all times.


Always provide a large bowl or bucket of cool, fresh water — including when you travel. Do not allow your dog to drink pool water, saltwater at the beach, or from puddles, ponds and lakes, which can contain toxic algae or parasites.

Limit exercise when it is hot and walk your dog early in the morning or after dark when the temperature is cooler and you can avoid hot pavement.

Use veterinary approved, pet-safe sunscreen to help prevent sunburn on hairless cats or dogs, breeds with short or thin hair, and those with light-colored skin and fur. Like us, they can get skin cancer if they get too much direct sun exposure — especially on ear tips, noses and bellies.

Consider a summer “crew cut” for long-haired dogs and cats, but not
too bare or short. This also helps avoid problems with foxtails and burrs, as you can see and remove them more easily.

Never, ever, EVER leave your furry friend in the car; even with the windows cracked the temperature inside can reach 90 degrees in the shade and 160 degrees in the sun! It only takes a few minutes for a pet to develop heat stroke!

Don’t drive with your dog in the bed of a truck as the hot metal can severely burn paws.

These safety suggestions are effective ways to protect our furry friends and keep them comfortable but be aware that (except for their paws) cats and dogs do not sweat to cool off like people do — they pant to dissipate heat. This works well for most pets, but some brachycephalic or “smushed-face” breeds like pugs, boxers and bulldogs that pant all the time can more easily become overheated. If they are already panting in a fairly cool situation, it can be almost impossible for them to cool off when it is hot — and excessive panting can make pets even hotter. If your cat is panting, they are either seriously stressed or overheated and need immediate attention. All pet owners should know that heat stroke is an emergency and can be deadly even with veterinary care. It is also important to note that if you suspect heat stroke, lowering the body temperature too quickly can make things worse.

Other “cool” summertime tips include:

  • Provide a “kiddy” pool for your pooch, but if you have a large pool or take your dog to the lake, make sure they can swim — many muscular breeds have trouble.
  • Create a breeze with a fan and/or use a mister on the patio or in your pet’s run area.
  • Freeze a favorite toy or treats in chicken broth, tuna juice or water to make a “popsicle” for your cat or dog — it keeps them cool, hydrated
    and occupied!

Keeping your pet safe during hot weather is easy enough if you put yourself in their place — if you are uncomfortable they probably are as well.  Let common sense prevail and have a great summer!

Dr. Stacker co-owns Paso Petcare Veterinary Hospital located next to the Post Office in Paso Robles. Call 805-238-1091. Visit