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Keep Pets Safe in the Heat

10 tips to keep your dog, cat or bird comfortable all summer long

If you're finding these record-breaking "dog-days of summer" uncomfortable, think how much worse it is for your pet, who must endure these triple-digit days while covered in fur or feathers.

See also: Dr. Marty Becker in AARP's PetPal online community.

A dog, cat or bird can't grab a cool drink from the fridge or turn on the air conditioning to beat the heat. Domestic animals lack the ability to sweat as we do to regulate their own temperature, so they depend on you to keep them cool, hydrated and most of all, safe.

Labrador Retriever - lying in front of a small fan

It is important to keep your home cool for your pets. — Juniors Bildarchiv/Alamy

As a veterinarian, I've treated far too many pets for heat-related conditions. I offer these "made-in-the-shade" tips to keep your pet cool and safe:

Know what's normal. Healthy noses should be cool or warm, wet or dry. Gums should be bubble-gum pink. Gently press your finger against the gum and the color should return to pink within two seconds. Pets suffering from heatstroke display dark red gums.

Pay attention to panting. Cats, dogs and birds naturally pant to help regulate their body temperatures. Be on the alert, however, if you start to detect a noise each time your pet inhales and exhales air or worse, displays difficulty breathing. And know the early signs of overheating: rapid panting, glassy eyes, drooling, acting confused, seeking shade, pacing and lying down frog-legged.

Keep your home cool. Close your blinds during the day to block the sun — this keeps the house cooler, saves energy and protects pets from the hottest rays.

Stay close to home. Resist taking your dog any place where the asphalt can burn their foot pads and there is little access to cool water. If you're not comfortable putting your hand on the sidewalk or street, it's too hot for your dog's paws, too. Let your dog chill on the couch while you run errands because the temperatures inside a car can quickly soar to sizzle even on a merely "warm" day — even with windows rolled down.

Next: Breeds that need extra protection from heat. »

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