8 top tips from Birmingham veterinarians on how to keep your pet safe in the summer heat

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These cute corgis want you learn about pet safety! Photo by Sheila McCallum for Bham Now

We asked three vets for their best advice on how to keep your pet safe in the summer heat. These are eight top tips from Birmingham veterinarians for keeping your animal friends cool, complete with photos of the Bham Now team’s adorable pets! 

First, let’s introduce our experts.

These three animal lovers want you to know how to keep your pet safe. Here are their top tips for keeping up the summer fun!

Avoid excessive exposure

The full-blown summer sun can get too hot for your pet. Be sure to stay by their side. Besides, who can resist being away from their pet for too long? Dr. Schofill says that some dogs need more attention than others.

Schofill: “Avoid keeping your dogs out in the middle of the day, especially the thick-coated dogs that are brachycephalic—the ones that have smushed faces like bulldogs and pugs. They have a tough time breathing anyway, so when it’s really hot for them, they just cannot be out for a long time by themselves.”

Bham Now Corgis
Meet Simon and Henry. Let’s get those little corgi legs moving! Photo by Sheila McCallum for Bham Now
Stay hydrated

Don’t let your pet go thirsty! Scott Nebbitt suggests bringing lots of water just in case.

Nebbitt: “You’ve definitely got to have plenty of water. As a matter of fact, it’s best to have multiple bowls of water in case they knock one over just to ensure they can always stay hydrated when they get thirsty.”

Bham Now Dog
Who’s thirsty? Oats is! Photo by Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now
Consider a summer cut

Pets with fur should get a haircut before spending time in the sun. Because most animals sit on their stomach to cool off, keep their tummy exposed for maximum cooling.

Schofill: “For the really furry dogs like golden retrievers and labs, some people will do what’s called a “summer cut” where they shave their bellies. That way, if they are outside, and they find a place to sit in the dirt that’s cooler for them, it’s easier for them to stay cool.”

We love a summer-ready pup. Photo by Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now
Stay in the shade

When it’s gorgeous outside, we want to bring playtime outside. Most pets love the smells and sounds of the outdoors. But when the sun starts to beat down, locate a shady area for you and your animal friend to cool down.

Nebbitt: “All animals outside should avoid too much direct sunlight. When it’s in the 90s like this, even little animals like hamsters want to find shelter. All animals should be in some type of shade or a home environment to stay cool.”

Bham Now Cat
This little kitty loves finding shady spots. Photo by Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now
Protect the pads

Your furry friends have pads on their paws for protection, but you’ll want to avoid burning any animal’s feet!

Schofill: “If you’re going to be walking on the concrete in the heat of the day, you can definitely singe their pads. It’s almost like little blisters which are really uncomfortable for them. The best thing would be to avoid walking on the concrete in the heat of the day. Save that for early morning or afternoon when the sun is going down.”

Bham Now Scottie
This Scottie loves a fun car ride! Winston was on his way back from a haircut. Photo by Kara Kennedy for Bham Now
Keep track of your pet

In the summertime, you won’t want your pet roaming off. Be sure to keep an eye on them and take precaution in letting them play outside. Dr. Henckell advises putting your contact info on their collar so that they’ll always find their way back home.

Henckell: “The other thing I think they would need would be a collar with a tag on it and/or a microchip. Microchips go under the skin. Vets and shelters have readers. If your pet is lost, that’s a way to find them.”

Bham Now Dog
Even on a dog walk, slap that collar on! Photo by Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now
Take breaks

We know our pets like to play. Animals with lots of energy like dogs may not recognize their own exhaustion, so be sure to come back inside when playtime is over.

Schofill: “Unfortunately dogs don’t always know when too much is too much. If you’re outside exercising with them, they’ll work themselves to collapse. If it’s been a good fifteen minutes of them playing, and it’s really hot out, you’ve got to be the one that reels it in. They’ll seriously put themselves in heat stroke just because they love to play.”

Bham Now Guinea Pig
“This is Petunia, one of our guinea pigs. Petunia and her friend Pauline like to play in the grass outside (well supervised of course), but during the heat we keep them indoors for playtime. We think they appreciate the air conditioning,” said Cindy Martin, President of Bham Now! Photo by Cindy Martin for Bham Now
Watch out for signs of heat stroke

Here are the telltale signs:

  • Losing skin elasticity
  • Red gums
  • Heavy breathing or panting
  • Drooling or dry mouth

Schofill: “If they’re showing signs of heat stroke—which would be excessive panting or their gums are bright, bright red—bring them to the vet.”

But how do you know if your pet is dehydrated? Most animals lose elasticity in there skin.

Henckell: “The best way to tell if they’re dehydrated is to pinch and pick up the skin over their shoulder blades, and it should right back down. If it doesn’t, that means they’re dehydrated.”

Dogs aren’t the only animal that pant when they’re thirsty. Even cats may start to breathe a little more heavily. Check on your pets when they start to look lethargic.

Henckell: “Normally cats don’t pant. If they’re panting, they’re either stressed or dehydrated. If their gums or their tongue is dry, then they’re obviously dehydrated.”


So to recap, it’s hot in the ‘ham! If you and your animal friend want to play outside, go for it. Just remember these tips and look out for the signs.

For more animal fun, check out our story on Do Dah Day, one of the biggest animal festivals in the state that takes place right here in Birmingham.

Now you’re good to go! Enjoy your summer playtime.

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