Dog Days of Summer: Keeping Pets Cool in the Summer Heat

The recent heat wave lazing through southern Ontario has piqued my concern for my pets’ comfort and well-being during the hot days in my small, air conditioner-less apartment. Heat stroke is a serious concern for our dogs, cats and small animals during the hot summer months, as outlined here. This worry for the safety of my cat and rabbit lead me to research tips for how to keep them cool, share some of my own tested tips and perhaps purchase and air conditioner.

Tips for Dogs

  • When your dog is outside, at the park or in the yard, be sure to provide adequate shade.
  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool water.
  • Give them ice cubes to lick.
  • Wet a stylish bandana and tie it around their neck.
  • Take them in for a summer grooming before the heat strikes.
  • Take your canine friend somewhere they can get wet like a lake, river or fill a kiddie pool with a bit of cold water for them to lounge in.
    Corgwn (plural of corgi) in a Kiddie Pool –
  • Leave them in well ventilated or air conditioned areas while you are away. (Never in a car or tied in the sun.)


Tips for Cats

  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool water.
  • Brush them often to keep their fur slick and cool.
  • If your cat is a sink sleeper, run a trickle of cold water without the plug in for them to play in.
    Cat Playing in the Sink –
  • Buy a large, non-toxic potted house plant to provide shade indoors.
  •  Try to get the cat to play in cool water by filling a bathtub, large container or kiddie pool with two inches of water, proving a safe way in and out (a secured bathmat works well) and placing ping pong balls or other floating cat toys in the water.
  • Wet a dishcloth, squeeze most of the liquid out, place it in the freezer for ten minutes and then drape it over your cat to cool them down.
    Even Miss I-Mind-Everything doesn’t mind too much
  • Feed your cat wet food on hot days to up their hydration.
  • Turn off heat producing appliances and electronics, like computers, when they are not in use and when you are out.
  • Build a “wind tunnel” by placing a small fan near the opening of a nylon play tunnel that is safely secured so it won’t blow away. Try placing a block of ice between the fan and tunnel for a greater cooling effect.
    Nylon Play Tunnel
  • Buy an air conditioner with a timed on and off switch or plug it into a light timer and set it to come on a low setting during the hottest hours of the day when you are away.


Tips for Small Animals

  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool water.
  • Give them juicy fruits and vegetables as treats.
  • Freeze a bottle of water and put it in their cage for them to cuddle at their own leisure.
  • Put their cage in a cool, shady part of your house. Finished basements are a good spot on really hot days.
  • Let them out, if possible, so they can search out their own cool spots. My bunny likes to stretch out on the tile floor of my kitchen.
    A Hot Bunny
  • Let them take a supervised swim in a bathtub filled with enough cool water to be able to stand with their head above water. My bunny isn’t too into this but my brother’s rat used to love it.
  • Brush them frequently to help them shed the last of their cold weather coat.


Be on the lookout for signs of heat stroke and dehydration in your pets on hot days. Most pets will instinctively find a cool spot and sleep through the hottest part of the day, you need to let them do this but you also need to keep an eye on them and how much water they are drinking. If you suspect your pet has heat stroke or is dehydrated and won’t drink, take them to their vet immediately.