Make sure pets have a cool spot, such as on tile or near an air-conditioning vent, to cool off.

Make sure pets have a cool spot, such as on tile or near an air-conditioning vent, to cool off.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

Take steps to protect your pets from heat, anxiety this summer

By: Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published June 26, 2018

 Experts say that it is important to keep pets hydrated in the summer months.

Experts say that it is important to keep pets hydrated in the summer months.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

METRO DETROIT — With a few days having hit highs in the mid-90s before the official start of summer, it’s important to remember that humans aren’t the only ones who feel the effects of the heat — pets do too.

“Dogs, just like people, have to stay very hydrated,” said Deborah Vitale, president of Beaches Pet Resort & Training Center in St. Clair Shores.

Certain breeds of dogs with shorter snouts — brachycephalic dogs such as pugs, boxers and French bulldogs — have trouble cooling themselves because they cannot breathe and pant efficiently, and panting is the primary way that dogs cool themselves. Because of that, they can overheat without much activity, Vitale said. Other dogs, she explained, aren’t very good at self-regulation and will keep playing hard until they are overheated if owners aren’t careful to give them enough breaks from activity.

Owners also need to be cognizant about how hot the pavement is where a dog is walking or playing.

“You have to be careful about where you’re playing with them,” Vitale said. “You don’t want to be on asphalt, because you don’t want to burn their pads.”

Jack Robbins, of Val’s Pet Supplies in Clawson and Troy, agreed.

“That’s the only place they can cool — on the paws,” he said of dogs. 

Owners can purchase paw protection to be applied to the pads of dogs’ feet. Robbins also encourages them to have collapsible water dishes to help their pets rehydrate during a walk.

“Slow walks. You don’t want to over-exercise them. I wouldn’t recommend that,” he said. 

Vitale said it’s also vital to give dogs places to cool off when they are outside, from shade to sprinklers to kiddie pools.

Heat stroke can strike a dog in as little as 10 minutes. Vitale said that owners can get their dogs some cool water and spray them lightly with a hose if they suspect their pet is becoming overheated or dehydrated.

“If you don’t seem to be seeing any quick results, then I would be getting to a veterinarian,” she said.

Pets should never be left in vehicles during the summer, Robbins said, even if the windows are cracked open. Temperatures can soar in an enclosed vehicle, and the pet can actually get stuck between the window and the vehicle.

Summer is also the season for thunderstorms and fireworks, which can make some dogs anxious or nervous from the noise and bright lights. 

For some dogs, a product called a ThunderShirt can help them feel comforted. Dr. Selena Lucas, of Advanced Veterinary Center in Farmington Hills, said that some dogs are so sensitive to static electricity that the barometric pressure change of a storm makes them feel as if they are being shocked. The ThunderShirt has a reflective barrier that prevents that feeling. There are also sprays and products that include supplements like melatonin that can calm an animal and reduce its anxiety. 

There are also anxiety pressure wraps that make a dog feel as if it is being swaddled for comfort.

While pheromone sprays and plug-ins can work well for low-grade generalized anxiety, supplements such as melatonin or valerian root work well to calm the animal without sedation. Unfortunately, Lucas said, “You’ve got to give it for about a month before the animal’s going to be stressed out, so that’s something to start the beginning of June if your dog is afraid of the Fourth of July.”

Stronger medications such as Prozac or Xanax may need to be prescribed as well, she said. 

“We’re always going to try to figure out ways that are nonprescriptive (first),” she said. 

Vitale said that it’s important for an anxious animal to have somewhere to go during thunderstorms or when fireworks are being set off, whether it is in a bathtub, under a table, in a crate or in the basement. A dark space also helps, she said, because “it’s not just the noise, it’s the flashing light.”

Pets are more likely to run away or be lost during the summer months if they are left unattended outdoors, even in a fenced yard. Vitale said that she knows of cases when dogs have jumped tall privacy fences or dug under them in an effort to escape the noise of a storm or fireworks.

Warm weather also brings out insects, which can be just as much of a pest to animals as they are to humans.

Along with medications that owners can get from their veterinarian — such as Frontline Plus, Advantix, and other flea and tick preventatives — Vitale said that there are many holistic remedies available that will make pets undesirable to insects, such as essential oils and diatomaceous earth, a mineral that kills fleas, ants and other crawling insects. When choosing a preventative, make sure that it kills all stages of the insect, Robbins said.

He also suggested that owners open up their pet’s bed and add red cedar chips to it, as they naturally repel insects.

“Put that in with the fluff, because cedar is a natural bug repellent (and it will) keep the bed smelling nice,” he said. 

Cedar chips can also be added to anywhere outside that a dog likes to lounge, he said. 

Lucas said that some essential oils can be effective, but only to keep away insects like mosquitoes and some fleas. She said that if an animal is going to be up north, in the woods or camping, where it could be exposed to ticks, a flea and tick collar or preventative medication is recommended.

For those who wish to make a homemade bug spray for their pet, Lucas said to add 25 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil in about 4 ounces of witch hazel or 2 ounces of liquid coconut oil and mix it up in a glass spray bottle. Be careful not to get any in the dog’s eyes when applying the spray, and be aware that it will make their coat oily.

“There are holistic alternatives, (but) because, just like for people, they may work on some dogs and not others, you always want to consult with your veterinarian,” Vitale said.

For more information, call Beaches Pet Resort & Training Center in St. Clair Shores at (586) 350-0776 or visit Beaches Pet Resort & Training Center on Facebook.

Learn more about Val’s Pet Supplies in Clawson and Troy at or call its Clawson location at (248) 588-2177 or its Troy location at (248) 813-8961.

Contact Advanced Veterinary Medical Center in Farmington Hills at (248) 478-5400.