You Had Me at Woof!

Pete, the cool guy, relaxing in Ocean City. Photo by Ellen Epstein.

Hot weather precautions for pet lovers

By Ellen Epstein

Hot weather and sunny skies signal the start of summer—a time for vacations and relaxation by the pool.

You may love your pet, but it won’t be all fun in the sun if you don’t take some simple precautions to protect your pets—and yourself—in hot weather.

Here are a few important hot weather precautions from Pet Sitters International to keep in mind this summer:

  • Don’t feel the burn. Whether you are spending time with pets outside or driving in your car, you should take some steps to protect your skin and the skin of the pets in your care. No one wants to feel the pain of a sunburn, and both humans and pets alike are susceptible to skin cancer. Wear water-resistant sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, and keep it handy in your car bag so you can reapply it every two hours. You can also wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and add a hat with at least a 3-inch brim and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes. For more tips, visit
  • For your canine friends, you can get sunscreen created specifically for dogs, which excludes ingredients that are toxic for them like zinc oxide. Regularly reapply sunscreen to the dog’s sensitive areas (e.g. nose, around the lips, tips of ears, belly and groin), and if your plans include taking Fido for a swim, remember to immediately reapply sunscreen afterward. You can also take other precautions when outdoors, such as outfitting the dog in a bodysuit or shirt, a hat with UV protection and doggy goggles. Articles on the PetMD and Vetstreet websites offer more tips regarding pets in the sun.
  • Avoid the hottest hours. Your schedule may vary, but if at all possible, try not to walk dogs during the hottest part of the day. If possible, complete most walks before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m. On the hottest days, your dog walks should be substituted with quick potty breaks and playtime indoors.
  • If you have to be outside during peak sun hours, take regular breaks to seek shade under trees or other structures, and keep water on hand for you and your dog. When temperatures rise, remember to wear “loosefitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing,” Mayo Clinic advises, and stay hydrated.
  • And don’t forget that hot pavement can injure pets’ paws. Here’s a quick tip: Place the back of your hand on the pavement, and if you can’t hold it for five seconds, it’s too hot for a dog walk. Bonus tip: Even the indoors can be a threat to pets if temperatures are allowed to rise. Leave the A/C on while you are gone during the summer days. Remember: If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pets!
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion. Even if you plan to take precautions this summer, you should still be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion, as well as how to respond.

Pets can be dangerously affected by the heat as well. Signs of heat stress in pets could include trouble breathing, excessive panting, increased heart rate, weakness or collapsing. Contact your pet’s veterinarian immediately if you expect your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion.

  • Never leave pets in a vehicle. We’ve all read the stories—tragic accounts of a pet owner who left a pet in a vehicle and came back to find the pet dead. According to the AVMA, hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion each year because they are left in parked vehicles. Even with the windows cracked or the air conditioner running, temperatures can rise quickly in a vehicle and put pets at risk of serious illness, or worse, death.

I hope these tips help keep you and your pet cool and safe this summer, and HAVE FUN!

Ellen Epstein Top Dog @


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