As temperatures increase and heat waves become the norm, keeping our four-legged friends cool during the summer has become a challenge for pet owners, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where many homes lack air-conditioning.

“Heat is challenging because when we get hot, we sweat, but the only way a dog or cat can get that heat out of their body is by panting or transfer of heat through the paw pads,” says Katie Kuehl, a veterinarian and director of Washington State University’s Shelter Medicine program at Seattle Humane.

Young man with dog at sunset in summer nature. Thirsty yellow labrador retriever drinking water from the plastic bottle.Adobe Stock

A pet’s breed, age, and body condition play a role in its susceptibility to heat stroke. A Chihuahua is going to have an easier time tolerating the heat than a Siberian husky, Kuehl says. Elderly and obese pets also struggle in the heat.

Taking walks early in the morning, before the sun has a chance to heat the concrete and asphalt, can help keep your pooch cool and protect their paws. If a midday walk is necessary, walking in grassy areas is preferable to putting boots on your pet, which can interfere with their body’s cooling methods, Kuehl says.

If your pooch needs to cool down fast, use room temperature water rather than ice cubes or cold water.

“The temperature of the ice and cold water constricts the pet’s blood flow,” Kuehl says. “When blood flow is constricted in the paw pads, that means less heat transfer can happen. It can actually make it harder for them to cool off.”

And, as always, never leave your pet in the car, even if the air-conditioning is on. Temperatures in a parked vehicle can rise to lethal levels in just a few minutes, Kuehl says.

Symptoms of heat stroke include rapid breathing and panting, dry mouth and gums, drooling or foaming at the mouth, a decrease in energy levels, vomiting or diarrhea, and seizures. If you believe your pet is experiencing heat stroke, quickly reduce their body temperature, then seek immediate medical attention.