While summer is a great time for animals, it also puts dogs and cats at a higher risk of getting sick or just being uncomfortable while the rest of the family has a great time outdoors. Here are some tips to keep your pets happy, healthy and comfortable in the summer sun:

Know the Signs of Pet Dehydration

This tip is crucially important; it can sometimes be hard to detect symptoms of dehydration in pets right away. Dogs can’t sweat and cool off by panting. If you notice that your dog is drooling excessively after being outdoors for a long period of time, they may be dehydrated. Dogs will also be lethargic, their eyes may be bloodshot and the gums will appear very pale.

Cats have similar symptoms. If your cat is panting, appears lethargic or has dark red gums she may be showing signs of heat exhaustion. But cats may also show you they’re feeling uncomfortable by pacing back and forth or refusing water. If that’s the case, you may need to use a syringe or dropper to give the cat water.

Exercise Early in the Morning or Late at Night

Typically, the hottest part of the day occurs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This could spell trouble for your pet if you decide to take him for a long walk or play with him too much. Instead, consider walking your dog or playing with your cat in the morning or the evening; the sun’s rays aren’t as strong and the exercise will be more enjoyable for both of you.

Use Sunscreen

Believe it or not, cats and dogs with white coats can get sunburns! Repeated exposure to the sun over time can cause squamous cell carcinoma, which is a cancer that’s often found on the tips of the ears and the nose. Early signs of this cancer include sores that don’t heel or sores that continuously bleed. To prevent your pet from getting burnt by the sun, apply a sunscreen to your pet as you would a child. Your veterinarian can recommend one that is not harmful if ingested.


Stay hydrated

Always make sure to carry a water bottle when walking your dog. Continuous walking with no water breaks could lead to dehydration and a very grumpy dog. Water is important for cats as well; it’s good to keep an automatic water dispenser in a cool place indoors. If your pet looks hot, consider spraying them down with a spray bottle or setting up a kiddie pool in a shady spot outside. Remember — dogs cool from the bottom up, so it’s important to spray their paws or stomach!

Be Careful with Fertilizers

You may think that your lawn looks great after you apply fertilizer, but is it good for your pet? Fertilizers with chemicals in them can actually be very harmful to your pet. Exposure to these chemicals over long periods of time can lead to cancer in both cats and dogs. Consider buying organic, non-toxic fertilizers. They’re safe for the environment, provide your lawn with nutrients and keep your pet safe and happy!

Never Leave an Animal in a Car

This is the golden rule of keeping pets safe in the summer. Even if you park a car in the shade, it still retains more heat than an open area; if it’s around 70 degrees outside, the inside of a car parked in the shade can reach temperatures of up to 90 degrees. If that car is left in the sun, the temperature inside can soar to almost 160 degrees! In these temperatures, it can only take around 15 minutes for pets to get seriously uncomfortable and seriously hurt. Plus, it’s also illegal in most states to leave animals in parked cars. If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t allow pets, the answer is simple: leave your pet at home.

Mabel Sterritt is an intern with Boston Parents Paper.