What to do when your pets say it’s getting hot in herre

I live in a beautiful townhome that was built in 1937. It’s one of those gorgeous French Normandy style complexes that feels very old Hollywood, complete with French windows, original crown moldings and an ornate rod iron staircase. It’s real purty.

Part of the “charm” of this old Hollywood style home is the fact that in the 1930s in Los Angeles, most buildings weren’t insulated. So when summer hits, our quaint pied-à-terre turns into a sweltering hot box that feels not-so-conveniently located a half-mile from the sun.

So far, summer in Los Angeles hasn’t been all that bad (quick, knock on some wood!). We’ve had some beautiful, breezy days where the temperatures haven’t crept up much above 80. But I fear those days are numbered, so I’m already executing my master plan to keep me and my family of fur babies cool through the hottest months of the year.

I call my master plan, “Operation Don’t Let My Elderly, Cranky, Yet Adorable Dachshunds Die From Heat Stroke Because My House Feels Like a Bikram Yoga Studio.”

I might need a better name for my master plan, but still — actions must be taken!

Every year during the warm summer months, veterinarians see a spike in the number of pets with heat-related illnesses. Even the healthiest pet can suffer from dehydration, sunburn or heat stroke if overexposed to the heat, and heat stroke can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Here are some simple, yet important steps to take to keep your pets cool and comfortable this summer:

Wash those fleas right out of their hair. One of the first things you’ll want to do is make sure you do for your pet is start a flea and tick control program. Summer is party season for those little buggers, so having a preventative treatment plan will stave off any skin irritation issues that can get rapidly out of hand during the hotter months.

Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Provide plenty of cool, fresh water at all times.

Pets can get dehydrated quickly; make sure your pet has a clean source of water available all the time.  Pets should be kept indoors during the hottest hours of the day, but if you must keep your pet outside, offer water in a spill proof container.

If you are exercising or walking your dog, be sure to bring plenty of water with you. Most pets won’t drink out of a water bottle so don’t forget a bowl!

Provide plenty of shade. I hope that you view your pet as much a part of the family as humans, and allow them to be indoors — especially when it’s hot out. But if your pet is outside or exposed to sun for long periods of time, be certain they have access to shade.

If your pet must be outside, please provide a dog house. It is best if there is additional shade from trees or a porch.

Only go for walks when the temperature is cooler during summer months. 

When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger or walk on hot asphalt. Instead, take your walks in the early morning, or later in the evening when temperatures have come down a bit.

Why? Dogs can suffer burns to their paws on days most people wouldn’t consider searingly hot.

If the outside temperature is pleasant (around 77 degrees), there’s little wind and humidity is low, asphalt can reach a staggering 125 degrees. If the temperature rises above 87, as it often does in L.A. during the summer months, asphalt can raise to 143 degrees.

To put that in perspective, you can fry an egg at 131 degrees. Even worse, skin destruction can occur in just one minute at 125 degrees. No bueno!

Know the warning signs of heat stroke. Symptoms can include: excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart or respiratory rate, excessive drooling, mild weakness or stupor, collapse, seizures, vomiting or diarrhea, elevated body temperature of over 104°.

If your pet becomes overheated, seek treatment immediately. Take measures to bring your dog’s body temperature down as soon as possible. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Place your pet in a tub of cool water or run cool water over their body with a hose.
  • Be sure the water comes in contact with the skin, especially the belly and insides of the legs.
  • Run water over the gums and tongue, but do not try and force a disoriented pet to drink.
  • Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible, but try to bring the body temperature down first.

Finally, I am annoyed that I even have to say this, but if you’re out running errands, do not leave your pet locked in the car. It’s abusive and deadly. Even for a couple of minutes. Don’t be that person.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be camped out in front of the portable air conditioning unit next to Ollie, who has probably already been there for the last three hours.