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Keeping Your Pets Safe in the Arizona Heat

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When the Phoenix sun beats down, more than people suffer during summer’s extreme heat. As temperatures soar, our pets also struggle to stay cool. Do your best to protect your furry loved ones from the sun and heat.


Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Car

This seems obvious, but we see it all the time: dogs left alone in the car. Even on a mild day, the temperature inside your vehicle soars to unsafe levels. These temperature changes happen quickly, too.

Researchers studied the temperature changes inside a parked car and their findings prove the danger of leaving any living being inside a vehicle.

  • First 10 minutes: Temperatures rose 19 degrees
  • After 20 minutes: Temperatures rose 29 degrees
  • After 30 minutes: Temperatures rose 34 degrees
  • After 40 minutes: Temperatures rose 38 degrees
  • After 50 minutes: Temperatures rose 41 degrees
  • After 1 hour: Temperatures rose 43 degrees

Even when it’s only 72 degrees outside, your car’s interior temperature reaches 91 degrees in the first 10 minutes and 101 after 20. If you’re gone for an hour, it hits 115 inside your car, even on a mild, 72-degree day. Cracking the vehicle’s windows had practically no effect on interior temperatures (though it’s still a good idea as it protects your windows from shattering).

That’s what happens in January here in the Valley of the Sun. How about when it actually gets hot outside? Just do the math. In July 2016, the average temperature was 108. Park your car and within 10 minutes, it’ll be 127 degrees in there and after 20 it’s a staggering 137. That’s why it’s illegal to leave an animal in a parked car. If a passerby sees an animal trapped in your vehicle, the law even allows him or her to break a window.

Animals Get Heatstroke, Too

If you’ve ever had heatstroke, you know how terrible it makes you feel. Unfortunately, heatstroke affects pets, too, and is often lethal.

Signs include:

  • Elevated body temperature, which may cause brain damage or death
  • Agitation
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Collapsing
  • Physical depression
  • Rigid posture
  • Thick saliva or frothing at the mouth
  • Unsteady gait
  • Vigorous panting
  • Vomiting
  • Signs of shock

You need to cool your pet immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Start by moving the animal to a cooler area, preferably inside with a fan directed toward the animal’s body. If that isn’t possible, look for shade. Next, dampen the body with cool – not cold – water. Do not force the animal to drink water, as it might choke due to shock. Instead, apply icepacks to the head, neck, and chest (nowhere else) and call a vet as quickly as possible.


Even with all that fur, animals can get a sunburn, especially if their humans insist on trimming or shaving their coat. As with people, lighter-skinned animals are more susceptible to the sun’s rays than darker-skinned animals, but all are vulnerable given enough time in direct sunlight. If your pet gets a sunburn you should cover the affected area with cool towels and give the animal an aloe vera preparation.

Do not use sunscreens or ointments on a sunburn, as animals typically lick these, further damaging their skin. However, before exposure to the sun, you may apply a waterproof sunscreen to your pet’s nose, ears, and bare skin (or wherever it has thin fur). Your vet should be able to recommend a good brand.

Things to Remember in the Heat

The best way to protect your pets from the heat is to provide them the same things you provide people: plenty of shade and water. Give them breaks from the heat, preferably inside your cool, air-conditioned home. If outside is your only option, take frequent water breaks and find shady areas for resting.

Do not expect pool water to keep your dog hydrated. The chemicals used to keep it clean are harmful to pets, so, even if your dog is in the pool, it still needs fresh, clean, cool water to drink.

Hot pavement also presents a danger. If you aren’t sure whether the pavement is too hot for your pet’s paws, step outside in your bare feet. If you can’t handle five seconds, it’s too hot to walk your dog. If you have no choice, get your pet some booties or paw wax to protect its paws from hot surfaces.

Just as certain people are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures, some pets are also more susceptible. If your pet is extremely old or extremely young, or has a health condition, it’s more vulnerable to extreme heat. In addition, dogs with heavy, double coats have more difficulty in hot weather, as do snub-nosed breeds.

Finally, when temperatures soar, limit your pet’s time outdoors. If your pet is outside for any amount of time, provide plenty of fresh water and access to shade. It takes only minutes for an animal to overheat during Phoenix’s extreme temperatures.