Tips to Help Pets Stay Safe and Comfortable in Summer Heat


By Dr. Edward Schettino

With the weather warming up, many of us have one thing on our minds – enjoying the great outdoors!

As we gear up for another summer, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) kicks off its annual safety campaign to remind pet owners of the dangers of leaving animals in hot cars.

Whether you’re heading out for vacation or just running errands, with a number of days already above 90 degrees, we need to keep our dogs in mind whenever we get in the car – no matter what the final destination may be.

Unlike humans, animals cannot efficiently cool their bodies. And while the windows in the car may be cracked or you’re parked in the shade, even with outside temperatures below 80 degrees, the inside of a vehicle can heat up to well over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. The stifling heat inside a car makes animals susceptible to heat stroke, and the onset of symptoms is rapid.

Common symptoms include lethargy or weakness, heavy panting, glazed eyes, profuse salivation, excessive thirst, lack of coordination, a deep red or purple tongue, vomiting – and can even include seizures or unconsciousness.

If your canine companion is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is critical that you take them immediately to the closest veterinary hospital for treatment.

Before jumping in the car, consider the following:

  • Make sure your pet is welcome at your final destination. If you’re planning to stay in a hotel or rental property, call ahead to confirm their pet policy. Additionally, many “dog-friendly” beaches have limited hours during the Summer to account for the influx of sunbathers, so always do your research before you leave for the day’s activities.
  • A quick errand, will always take longer than you expect. When making a stop at the local pharmacy or grocery store for necessities, have someone stay inside the car with your pet, with the air conditioning running.
  • Limit your pet’s outdoor exercise to the morning or evening hours when it is coolest.
  • It’s always safest to keep your pet indoors. When enjoying outdoor activities, leave your pet indoors and make sure they’re in a cool, comfortable environment with access to plenty of fresh water, as well as safe toys and treats to keep them occupied while you’re gone.
  • Know where to go in an emergency. Do your research before leaving so you know where the nearest veterinary clinics are – just in case.

Health hazards aside, it is also against the law in Massachusetts to keep an animal confined in a vehicle when extreme heat or cold may threaten the animal’s health. The law passed in 2016 and while pet owners should be well aware of the dangers of leaving animals in vehicles during the warm weather months, we sadly still see numerous examples of animals suffering and even dying every year, as the result of being left in the car.

To learn more summer pet safety tips, visit

Thanks to Dr. Edward Schettino and the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) for contributing this article to Westwood Minute. Dr. Schettino is the President and CEO of ARL. He holds a doctorate of veterinary medicine from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

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