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American River Messenger

Caring for Pets during Hot Weather

Jul 30, 2020 12:00AM ● By By Allison Harris, Sacramento County

To avoid drowning, make sure your dog wears a life jacket and keep them out of the water when river flows are high. Photo: Gayatri Malhotra

SACRAMENTO COUNTY, CA (MPG) - Every year, Sacramento County residents do their best to keep cool during the summer heat. Failing to keep cool in extreme temperatures can cause adverse health effects for residents—both human and animal.

Unlike humans, cats and dogs cannot sweat to keep cool; they cool their bodies off through panting and the pads of their feet. As a pet owner, it’s important to take measures to keep them cool during the high temperatures.

Here are some tips for keeping your pet safe from the heat:

Never leave your pet in a parked car: Even cracking a window won’t protect your pets. It is against the law in California and could be punishable by a fine or imprisonment. A car can reach 120 degrees in just minutes; even if the windows are slightly open the car can still reach 102 degrees.  A dog's normal temperature is 101.5 degrees; at 120 degrees your pet can suffer from heat exhaustion and die and at 107 degrees brain damage occurs. Check out this video on how hot it gets in cars;

Avoid extreme heat: When temperatures get above the 90s, take your pet inside. For outdoor pets, be sure to provide them with plenty of fresh, cold water in a tip-proof water dish and shade for them to cool down;

Don’t exercise with your pets when it is too hot: Older and certain long-haired dogs can be particularly susceptible to heat, and hot asphalt can burn their paws. Exercise in the early morning or cool evenings and make sure both of you have plenty of water.

Use sunscreen: Pets get sunburned just like people, and if your pet has light skin or fur, they can be particularly susceptible to a painful burn, and even skin cancer. Use sunscreen on sensitive areas, such as ears or nose to make sure your pets are protected.

Secure your dog during transport: Make sure your dog is secured safely in your vehicle. Cross-tethering your dog with a rope or containing them via kennel in the bed of your truck will help prevent the dog from falling or jumping from the vehicle. Also, please note that truck beds can get hot when exposed to the sun and that can severely burn dog footpads. Transporting animals on a public highway or public roadway without properly securing them could be punishable by a fine.

Be your pet’s lifeguard: While swimming can help pets get exercise without overheating, always supervise pets when swimming either in a pool or in waterways. Dogs can get tired swimming, particularly in rivers where they have to fight against currents. To avoid drowning, make sure they wear life jackets and keep them out of the water when flows are high. 

If pets have been exposed to high temperatures…
Be alert for signs of heat stress including heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.

Immediately move your pet to the shade to gradually lower their temperature. Apply cool (not cold) water to the pet, and provide lukewarm or cool water to drink. Take your pet to a veterinary hospital immediately. It could save their life.

For more tips on keeping pets safe in hot weather, visit the Hot Weather Pet Tips page. For other animal issues and pet owner resources, visit the Bradshaw Animal Shelter website

Don’t have a pet? The Bradshaw Animal Shelter is now offering adoptions by appointment. To start the adoption process, visit the Adoptable Animals webpage, then call 916-875-2287 Tuesday through Sunday (except holidays) between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to schedule an appointment. 

For a list of available animal care services, including walk-in licensing and how to report a lost or found pet, visit