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Summer Safety for Pets

If you’re like me, you want to spend all your free time with your best buddy…your furry friend.  But, in these ‘dog days’ of summer, we have to take extra precautions when we have our pets with us in the sweltering summer weather.

Pets are often so eager and excited to spend time with their human buddies, that they aren’t aware of how their bodies are being impacted by the dangers of summer time, until it’s too late.  So, we have to watch out for those dangers to protect our pets.

Pets & Parked Cars

Never, ever leave your pet in a parked car – even with the windows down!

On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 100 degrees in minutes.  On a 90-degree day, it will be over 109 degrees in a parked car in less than 10 minutes.

Pets can sustain brain damage and die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes.

Dogs cool themselves by panting and, to a lesser extent, releasing sweat through their paw pads, but it’s not possible to be cooled in an oven.

In North Carolina, it’s illegal to confine an animal in a car which is considered under endangering conditions. (NC ST § 14-363.3)

Symptoms of Overheating in Pets


Just as you do with your children, you are the protector of your pets, so be aware of the symptoms of overheating in pets.

  • excessive panting
  • difficulty breathing
  • increased heart and respiratory rate
  • drooling
  • weakness
  • thick saliva
  • dark colored tongue
  • collapse

Know Where Your Nearest Veterinarian is Located

Know where your emergency veterinarian is located or contact your personal veterinarian if symptoms increase or seizure, bloody diarrhea and/or vomiting occur.

Just as with our senior human family members, our senior pets also need to be more carefully watched for these symptoms, as heat can impact them more quickly.  As responsible pet owners, we should never allow our pets to become overweight.

Pets who are overweight are already compromised, and that extra weight can prevent them from cooling themselves as easily as they would if they were at a healthy weight.

Pets with health problems, such as heart or lung disease should be kept cool, and kept  in air conditioned spaces as much as possible.

Myth: “A Pet’s Paws Are Like Shoes.”

One of the biggest myths about dog’s paws is that they’re exactly like a human shoe.  In reality, a dog’s paw is extremely sensitive!

On an 87-degree day, pavement temperatures can reach 140 degrees.

That’s hot enough to cause thermal burns. At 150 degrees, rapid burns and blistering begin, which can result in permanent injury, pain, infection and impact on the dog’s ability to perform daily functions.

A good way to test if the pavement is too hot is to reach down and hold your palm to the pavement. If it’s too hot to hold your palm there, it’s too hot for your buddy to walk on it for long. Choose pavement that is shaded, or better yet – opt for natural surfaces such as grass, or mulch.


Help Your Pet Combat Summer Heat

#1 – Carry bottled water.

Carry a water bottle for you and for your pet, so each of you can have fresh water available. You can buy collapsible bowls, and bottles and other tools for cooling, which are easily obtained from any local or online pet supply store.

#2 – Hydrate often.

Pets can dehydrate quickly, so offer them water at frequent intervals, preferably in shaded areas.

#3 – Consider the time of day.

If it’s too hot outside, consider waiting until early morning or dusk for your daily walk.

#4 – Think twice about shaving.

You may think that you’re helping your pet by shaving them in the summer; and while trimming their longer, heavier fur will help,

the layers of a dogs’ coat will actually protect them from overheating and sunburn.

If you have questions about your dog’s breed type coat and the heat, please don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian!

#5 – Stay cool at home.

Our pets depend on us to take a moment to decide what is best for them, so take a moment, and if conditions are too dangerous, leave your buddy at home in an air conditioned space or cool space with access to plenty of water.  They’ll celebrate you on your return, and you’ll have a lifetime of happy adventures together.

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rin-ramussenAbout Lynn (& Rin) Rasmussen

Lynn is the handler for WakeMed hospitality dog, Rin, a 4 year-old rescued German Shepherd. Together, Rin and Lynn have served WakeMed since 2014.

Outside of WakeMed, Lynn works full time for NC State University and lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband of 22+ years, Eric.

In her free time, Lynn volunteers with several local agencies, including: Southeast German Shepherd Rescue, Canines for Service/Canines for Therapy, and the WakeMed Hospitality Pets Program. 

Support for Pet Hospitality & Pet Assisted Therapy

With generous gifts from donors, the WakeMed Foundation supports the pet hospitality and pet assisted therapy programs at WakeMed by underwriting the costs of veterinary visits, training and education. If you would like to join the team in making this transformative care possible, you can make a gift at