Here’s a quick rule of thumb for pet-owners: If you’re hot, your animal is too. All animals, even small ones like hamsters or guinea pigs, are susceptible to overheating in hot weather so here are a couple tips to keep your animal safe and cool during the hottest months of the year:

  • First, animals – even furry ones – can get a sunburn, especially if they have white or light fur. So don’t let them lay around in direct sunlight. You can also get animal sunscreen from your vet and apply it to their noses and ears or any other exposed skin. If you do use sunscreen make sure you don’t use it on cats. It contains a chemical that could kill them.

  • Thinking of getting your dog a warm-weather buzz cut? It’s not necessary to shave your dog in hot weather. That’s because fur actually cools dogs DOWN by keeping the sun off their skin. And when dogs are active, their lighter summer coat lifts, and channels cooling air across their body. There’s only one place you want to trim your dog’s hair short for hot weather: Around their foot pads. Psychologist Dr. Stanley Coren – who wrote Why do Dogs Have Wet Noses? – says that’s the only place where dogs have sweat glands. So, the less hair there is around their paws, the more easily their sweat can evaporate, which will help them cool down.

  • In fact, no matter how hot it gets, or how dense their coat is, dogs don’t need to be shaved. That’s because their undercoat insulates them from the heat – so it actually helps them stay cool. Just make sure you brush their coat so it’s mat-free. That’ll promote good air circulation.

  • Dogs are more likely to overheat than most other animals because they just don’t know when to stop playing. You’ll need to limit their exercise on hot days, and walk them on grass, not concrete. The heat from the concrete can burn their paws.

  • Next, pay close attention to animals with special needs. If an animal is overweight or has lung or heart problems the heat can be deadly.

  • Also, if you have a dog with a short flat face, watch them in hot weather. Dogs like pugs and bulldogs aren’t good panters which is how a dog cools off. If they show any signs of distress, cool them down by putting cool water on their legs and belly where they have less fur, and if you can’t cool them down, get them to a vet.

Here’s how to tell if your animal is overheated: Look for excessive panting or drooling and a wobbly walk or falling over. Also, check their heart rate; if it’s racing they’re overheated. Vomiting and diarrhea are a sure sign of trouble. If you see any of these signs get the animal cooled off. For bigger animals like dogs, hose them down from the belly or get them into a kiddie pool. If you put water on top of their fur, it creates steam and makes them even hotter. For smaller animals, freeze a couple water bottles for them to curl up next to. If cooling them off doesn’t work, get them to a vet as soon as you can.