Summer & Hot Weather Pet Care Tips

Summer & Hot Weather Pet Care Tips

By Don Hanson, PCBC-A, BFRAP

< Updated 2024-06-11 >

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As summer approaches, the temperatures rise, and we tend to spend more time outside enjoying the beautiful weather.  With the warm and sometimes hot, humid weather come some potential dangers and several things that must be considered to keep our pets safe and healthy. With a few simple precautions, summer can be a time of great fun for both you and your pets. So please take the time to plan and consider how the change in weather and summer activities can affect your pet. Make it a great summer for all of you!

The Heat & Sun

Our pets, especially the young, elderly, and overweight, are at increased risk for dehydration and heatstroke as the temperatures rise; both can be life-threatening.

Signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • rapid breathing
  • heavy panting
  • excessive salivation
  • fatigue
  • unsteadiness and staggering
  • muscle tremors
  • glazed eyes
  • a fast pulse

Signs of even more dangerous heat stroke include:

  • high body temperature
  • vomiting & diarrhea
  • a deep red or purple tongue and gums
  • collapse

If you observe these symptoms in your pet, you need to get your pet out of the heat immediately and contact a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Heat stroke can be fatal, and do not depend on DIY solutions you find online. You can use cool water (not cold!) to cool down your pet as you transport them to your veterinarian. Do NOT place an overheated pet in cold water. Misting them with cool water and putting wet towels on their neck, chest, and limbs will aid in cooling during transport. Offer them ice chips, but do NOT force them to eat or drink.

If your pet experiences heat-related distress, they need to be seen by your veterinarian, even if they seem to be okay, to rule out any unseen damage.

Things you can do to help prevent heat-related injuries are:

  • Be aware of the air temperature and humidity outdoors.
  • Be equally aware of the surface your pet will be walking on. If you cannot hold your palm against the surface for five seconds without discomfort, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws. Research indicates the coolest surfaces will be shaded grass and non-shaded grass. The surfaces that can get the hottest, in order of coolest to hottest, are concrete, brick, asphalt, and Astroturf. Paw wax or dog boots may help protect their pads, but exercise caution and check their paws frequently.
  • If you leave a pet in the car, you need to check on your pet every few minutes – No Exceptions! When the temperature outside is 80F degrees, the temperature inside your vehicle will reach 100F degrees in 15 minutes and 120F degrees in 30 minutes, even with the windows open halfway. Leaving your pet in your car in the summer can be fatal!
  • Once the outside temperature reaches 70F, if your pet doesn’t need to go with you, the best place for them is at home.
  • Do not rely on the vehicle’s air conditioning when leaving your pet in the car. If you do, you must continue checking on your pet every few minutes to ensure the car and AC are running.
  • Make sure your pet always has access to fresh, cool water, ideally from home.
  • If you leave your pet outside, always ensure they have access to shade. Not all dogs will move out of the sun when needed, so you must check on them regularly if they are outside.
  • Keep your pet well groomed; if they have a long or dense coat and undercoat, keep it mat-free. Your pet’s guard hair, or outer coat, is an insulator that keeps them from overheating in the summer and warm in the winter. We generally do not recommend shaving down an animal with a double coat unless there is a medical reason or if the coat is severely matted and brushing out the mats would cause the pet distress. < FMI – Should you shave your dogs this summer? >
  • If the sun can reach your pet’s skin, you will need to apply sunscreen regularly or keep them out of the sun to avoid sunburn.
  • Brachycephalic pets (those with short noses like Pugs and Persians) must always be kept cool. Because of their squashed noses, they often have difficulty breathing in hot, humid weather and are even more susceptible to heat-related
  • Plan outdoor activities with your pet for early morning or late evening when the temperatures are cooler.
  • Make sure your pet does not overexert itself. Exercise is essential, but too much activity when it’s hot and humid can cause dehydration and even heat stroke. Like some people, not all pets know when to stop and rest.
  • If you keep your car or home windows open, ensure your pet cannot escape. We often keep windows open during the summer months to keep ourselves comfortable. Ensure screens and windows are secure so your pet cannot escape or accidentally fall out of a window.

Water Safety

The summer also brings more opportunities for people and pets to play in the water. While it brings much joy, water is also a source of concern. Some things to consider:

  • Many dogs enjoy swimming, but some don’t swim well, and even the best swimmers can tire. Life jackets for dogs can save lives.
  • If you have a pool, your dog needs to be supervised whenever they can access the pool. You should take the time to train your dog how to enter and exit the pool from the shallow end safely. A life vest is just as appropriate for the pool as for the pond, lake, or ocean.
  • Saltwater can damage a dog’s coat and skin, so after any ocean dips, take the time to hose them down with fresh water.
  • Don’t let your pet remain wet! For some dogs, wet fur can irritate the skin, causing “hot spots.” These can be a source of discomfort and infection for your pet.

Bug Bites, Parasites, and Pollen

Insects also enjoy the summer weather, and if they are a pest to us, they may also be a pest to your dog and cat.

  • Black Flies, Maine’s memorable nemesis, seem to love to feast on the tender underbellies of dogs and cats. While some pets are oblivious, some react like we do, itching, scratching, and the equivalent of pet cursing. Several insect repellants are safe for pets and will help keep blackfly and mosquito bites to a minimum. Please stop by and ask us about the latest products in the store to combat these pesky pests. Read the label before using an insect repellent for humans on your pet. Many products for humans, even kids, may be unsafe for pets. Avoid products containing DEET!
  • During the summer months, our pets are at risk of getting heartworms from a mosquito bite. This parasitic worm is more of a threat to dogs but can be fatal even in cats. Discuss heartworm testing and prevention with your pet’s veterinarian at their annual exam.
  • Ticks have become a severe problem in Maine, and it’s no longer just Lyme disease that is a concern. For more on diseases caused by ticks and suggestions for preventing ticks, read my article Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases-Keeping You and Your Dog & Cat Healthy at
  • Fleas become more of a problem, particularly towards the end of summer. These tiny insects like to live, feed, and breed on our pets. Feeding involves a bite to get a blood meal, which causes the classic itchy response we see in many pets. Some pets are more allergic to flea bites, and just a couple of fleas can make their lives miserable; severe infestations can even cause anemia. I encourage you to discuss flea prevention products with your veterinarian, as the products they can provide are typically safer and more effective than what you can purchase over the counter. Since some products used safely with dogs can be deadly to cats, let your veterinarian know if you have both pet species in your home.
  • While rare, pets can have an allergic reaction to being stung by bees, wasps, and the like. Such a sting can be more severe for brachycephalic pets because their breathing is already compromised due to their anatomy. If you suspect such a reaction, you must immediately get your pet to a veterinarian.
  • The tree and grass pollens make my eyes water and nose run, and if the lawn has just been mowed, I itch all over. Some pets can also experience seasonal allergies. In addition to those above, another common manifestation of seasonal allergies is the continual licking and chewing of feet. If you see these symptoms, talk to your veterinarian, and they can assist you in finding relief for your pet.

Outdoor Chemicals

Lawn fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides, and all sorts of other “… sides” are used routinely in our environment to kill something we don’t like. These poisons can all be toxic to our pets, and since our animals cannot read little lawn signs or product labels, we need to watch out for them. Read product labels and keep your pet away from areas where these products have been applied. Remember – our pets aren’t wearing gloves or shoes but run naked and clean themselves by licking, increasing their exposure to these potentially toxic products.

In their book The Forever Dog, veterinarian/author Dr. Karen Shaw Becker and author Rodney Habib note:

“…exposure to lawn pesticides (specifically those applied by professional lawn-care companies) raise the risk of canine malignant lymphoma by as much as 70 percent.”

Two of the most dangerous ingredients in lawn chemicals are 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and glyphosate, both of which are carcinogens. Glyphosate is the key ingredient in Roundup.

While we usually think of mulch as innocuous, cocoa mulch can be deadly if ingested and has a delicious scent to some animals.

Family & Holiday Gatherings

Summer is also a time for family gatherings, celebrations, and vacations. Depending on your pet’s temperament, these can range from good times to scary events. These simple rules will help you keep your pet safe during the festivities.

  • Put your dog in his crate with a bone or favorite chew toy, at least during the most hectic times – when guests arrive and leave and when meals are being prepared and served. Remind your guests that they are to leave your pet alone in this situation.
  • Assign one adult to oversee each dog, watch for signs of stress, and protect the dog from unwanted attention from children and adults. At the same time, assign one adult to supervise each baby or toddler, with no other tasks assigned to them. Make sure that an adult supervises ALL interactions between pets and children.
  • Not every dog likes every person – ALWAYS let your dog decide if they want to meet someone new.
  • Please let your pet stay safely at home or consider boarding your pet if your home will be the location of a family celebration, especially if you are not 100 percent confident your pet will be safe and happy. However, holidays are prime boarding season, so book several weeks in advance to ensure your pet has a spot.

Most pets are not fans of raucous group events where people they barely know imbibe alcoholic beverages. This can cause people to act impulsively and recklessly. Before assuming your pet will enjoy such an event, I encourage you to read the two blog posts at the links below.

Fireworks and July 4th

Independence Day (July 4th) celebrations can be especially disconcerting to pets. According to the American Kennel Club, more pets are reported missing on July 4th and the following days than at any other time during the year. Parades and fireworks are very frightening to many pets. For tips on keeping your pet safe and comfortable during the July 4th holiday, read my blog post PET SAFETY ALERT – Pets & Fireworks Don’t Mix at

Traveling & Recreating with Your Pet

If your pet enjoys adventures and traveling, then by all means, take them with you. However, remember that you may need to change your travel plans to accommodate your pet’s needs. While many places welcome pets, many do not, such as restaurants, amusement and water parks, beaches, museums, and more. Also, remember that if you bring your pet to a tourist area hoping to board them, make a reservation well in advance, or you may find no one has space.

Please bring the following with you whenever you take your pet on any overnight trip, a trip more than two hours away from your local emergency veterinary facility, or a trip outside the USA.

Checklist for Vacationing with Pets

  • Contact information for emergency veterinary hospitals where you will be traveling.
  • A copy of your pet’s vaccination and veterinary records, including a list of prescription medications and your veterinarian’s contact information. This may be essential if your pet needs a veterinarian while on your trip or if you wish to board your pet. It may also be required when entering a foreign country and returning to the USA.
  • All of your pets’ daily medications with enough supply for a few extra days in case your trip is delayed.
  • An ample supply of the food and treats you provide for your pets. Treats may help calm pets in uncomfortable situations.
  • Appropriate bags for disposing of your pet’s waste. It does matter where your pet chooses to defecate; it is ALWAYS your responsibility to immediately pick up and dispose of your pet’s feces.
  • A list of pet boarding facilities where you travel in case you need to board your pet due to a family emergency.
  • A travel carrier or kennel to secure your pet in your automobile while traveling or if you are staying in a hotel or campground. If you choose not to crate your pet while in the car, a pet safety belt that is crash test certified is recommended.
  • A regular 6ft leash and a flat collar or a harness with an ID tag with your mobile phone number. If your pet is microchipped, ensure you have kept paying the registration fee and that your contact information with the company is current. Maine, as well as most other states, require dogs to be on a leash and under your control when off your property
  • Have a well-thought-out plan if you plan to hike more than a mile with your dog. Make sure to bring a first aid kit, a mobile phone, and a way to transport your pet back to the trailhead if it becomes sick or injured on the hike. If you are alone and weigh 115 lbs., and your dog weighs 120 lbs., could you carry them to safety five miles away?
  • A supply of posters containing a photo of your dog and your contact information in case they are stolen or get lost.
  • If you are traveling outside the USA, start working on the paperwork with your pet’s veterinarian at least 60 days before your trip.

Traveling In and Out of the USA with Your Dog

If your state borders another country, you might be tempted to take your dog with you when you go on vacation in Canada or Mexico. It’s been many years since I took a dog to Canada on vacation. As I recall, we had to show a Rabies Certificate upon entering Canada and again upon reentry to the USA. It’s more complicated now.

Effective August 1, 2024, Dogs entering or re-entering the USA must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 6 months of age at entry or return to the United States.
  • Have an implanted International Organization for Standardization (ISO)-compatible microchip that must have been implanted before any required rabies vaccination. The microchip number must be documented on all required forms and in all accompanying veterinary records
  • Appear healthy upon arrival. Dogs may not enter the United States if they are carrying a disease contagious to people. Isolation of the dog, veterinary examination, and additional testing may be required at the importer’s expense to determine if the dog has a contagious disease and prevent spread if the dog does not appear healthy upon arrival.
  • Have a CDC Dog Import Form Receipt. This form should be filled out online ideally 2-10 days before arrival; however, it can also be completed right before travel (even in line at the border crossing) if you have internet access. If the information on the form changes before the dog arrives, you must submit a new form and indicate you are making changes to an existing form. All information, including the port of entry where the dog is arriving, must be correct at the time of arrival. This form requires you to upload a clear photograph of the dog showing its face and body. Dogs that will be less than one year old at arrival should have the photograph taken within ten days before arrival. There is no charge to importers for submitting this form.
  • Have one of the following documents – A Certification of U.S.-Issued Rabies Vaccine form that was endorsed by USDA before the dog departed the United States OR a USDA-endorsed export health certificate. The export certificate must demonstrate the dog is 6 months of age or older, list the microchip number, and either be for the dog rabies-free or low-risk country where the dog’s return itinerary originated (the form will only be valid for 30 days if it does not contain rabies vaccination information), OR document a valid (unexpired) rabies vaccination administered in the United States (the form will be valid for the duration of the rabies vaccination (1 or 3 years)).

NOTE: There are additional requirements for dogs that have been in a high-risk country for dog rabies in the past six months.

Your veterinarian will need to prepare much of the documentation necessary to allow your dog to enter another country and then return to the USA. If you know you are traveling out of the country with your pet, the CDC recommends that you start working on the documentation at least 60 days before you plan to depart the USA.

For More Information

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Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( and the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB) and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), serving on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairing the Advocacy Division. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Show podcast, available at, the Apple Podcast app, and this blog. The opinions in this article are those of Don Hanson.

© Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved

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