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Keeping Pets Cool in the Heat

Jun 26, 2017 10:23PM ● By Louisa Asseo

This is my time of year. I have always joked that I am part reptile, soaking up the heat and basking in the glorious sun. However, the story is different for most of our furry companions.  

Most of us have been warned about the dangers of leaving pets inside a locked car. On an 80⁰ day, temperatures inside a car rise rapidly and can jump to over 100⁰ in 10 minutes or less. Even on a cooler 70⁰ day, temperatures can exceed 100⁰ within 20 minutes! As dogs cannot sweat well, their internal body temperatures rise quickly, which can result in heat stroke and death very quickly. So, the best plan is to not leave your dog unattended in a car.

What about taking dogs on walks on hot days? Aside from carrying water and finding shaded paths, consider that your friend is walking barefoot. If it is too hot for your feet, then it is definitely too hot for their paws! Boots for dogs can help against the heat, but they also prevent heat from escaping from the paw pads, one of the few places where dogs have sweat glands. Switch up your routine by walking with your dog in the early morning hours or late in the afternoon or evening, when the pavement is cooler for them. Also, while it might be fun to bring your friend to all of the great events that our community puts on in the summer, it may be best to leave him at home in air conditioning rather than make him brave the hot pavement while strolling through a festival or other gathering. 

Rabbits and rodents, especially guinea pigs and chinchillas, are uniquely sensitive to the heat and more prone to heat stroke. These species are much more adapted to cool temperatures and can struggle if their environment rises above 80 degrees. They have glorious thick coats and mostly lack sweat glands. Rabbits can dissipate heat from their ears, but guinea pigs and chinchillas do not have this ability. On hot days, place a frozen water bottle or two in their environment. They can snuggle against the ice block to keep themselves cool. While most companion rodents live indoors, where we have better control of the temperature, some rabbits live outdoors in hutches. These are the bunnies that worry me the most. They cannot create underground burrows to escape the heat. If the day is expected to reach over 80⁰, please bring them inside to cooler temperatures. Also consider grooming them to keep their fur as light at possible. 

Even our cute mini pig friends need special considerations when housed outside. Pigs have only a few sweat glands that work minimally to dissipate excess heat. They need water (or mud) to wallow in. This cools pigs by mimicking the evaporative qualities of sweat. Providing shade and fresh cool water at all times can make these babies more comfortable in the heat of the season. 

Here’s to a great summer and hoping you and your pet pals can beat the heat! Stay cool!