Vets warn pet owners against these 5 heatwave mistakes – and how to keep yours safe

Caring for a pet during a heatwave begins by avoiding these mistakes – according to certified veterinary experts

dog in a hallway
(Image credit: Future)

Heatwaves can be incredibly dangerous to pets. We all know that left in a hot car, heatwave or not, pets can quickly succumb to the heat. But high temperatures can pose a threat to our animals at home, too. 

Knowing how to keep your pets cool isn't always as easy as it seems. Instead, some common mistakes may be impacting your pet's health in hot weather at home.

If you're living with pets, it's only natural that you want to do what you can to help them feel comfortable. However, sometimes that can involve rewriting your routine during periods of particular heat. Here's what the veterinary experts want you to know about keeping pets safe.

5 mistakes to avoid when caring for a pet in summer – according to vets 

Pets in the heat

(Image credit: Future)

How can you guarantee a pet-friendly home during the hottest months of the year? Veterinary experts recommend avoiding these common mistakes. 

1. Leaving your pets alone by the pool

Charleston-based veterinarian Dr. Shannon Barrett warns against leaving your pets alone by the pool at any time. And while it is important to keep this pool idea in mind throughout the year, it is even more essential when your pet may seek relief from the hot weather in the cooler water. 

'Even though swimming is a great exercise for our furry friends, leaving them by the pool unattended can be very dangerous,' she says. 'Not all of them know how to get out of the pool if they get too tired from swimming, so please ensure they are supervised at all times.'

Pets in the heat

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

2. Keeping pets outside while gardening

'Pets don't sweat effectively to cool off as we do – they pant instead. Therefore it's hard for them to control their body temperature. You can tell when you're becoming overheated. Unfortunately, our canine friends are not as good at this,' Dr. Shannon says. Therefore, if you want to sit out in the backyard during the hot weather, it is better to invite your pet back inside. 

'[Pets] are very susceptible to heat stroke, and the signs can be very subtle. They may not appear for hours after being outside. Therefore avoid the hottest parts of the day, which depending on your location, can be from 10 AM to 3 PM,' she explains. 

3. Leaving pets inside without air conditioning

Alongside leaving pets outside, Dr. Shannon warns that leaving your pets inside without suitable precautions is equally as dangerous. 

'We all want to be energy conscious but realize your home can increase in temperature very quickly, and then your pets suffer the consequences,' the vet says. 'Ensure it is set at an appropriate temperature for your pets while you're away. If it is too hot for you, it is too hot for them.'

Pets in the heat

(Image credit: Future)

4. Keeping your pet's food outside

While it is tempting to leave your pet's food outside for easy access, veterinarian Paola Cuevas Moreno from warns that hotter climates create a 'breeding ground of bacteria' that is harmful to your dog or cat. 

'Bacteria tend to thrive in warm conditions, increasing the chances of pollution,' the vet says. 'Remove anything your pet does not eat within 30 minutes and make sure you wash their food plates after every meal, just like you would wash yours,' she adds. 

5. Putting your pet near a window with direct sunlight 

Observing the sunlight through a window may be a joy for us, but it is less healthy for your pets, Dr. David Littlejohn, the Lead Veterinarian at Pawscessories, warns.
'You'll want to avoid keeping your pet in a room with a window that gets a lot of direct sunlight. If they're unable to leave that room, it can get considerably warm for them to the point of extreme discomfort,' the vet says. 

Whether you're upgrading your AC system or simply keeping an eye over your pet around the swimming pool – avoiding these mistakes may lead to a happier, healthier pet this summer. 

How do I protect my pet in hot weather or a heatwave?

  • Just as you would never leave your pet in a car in warm weather, never leave pets confined to hot rooms, either.
  • Make sure your pet has access to water; you'll be surprised how much more they drink in hot weather, so ensure extra bowls are out if you will be leaving them alone for a time.
  • Don't take your dog for a walk in the heat of the day – change your routine to walk them in the cool. If the sidewalks are still hot, you may have to protect their paws, too.
  • Don't take your dog out at all, if they can last a day or two during the hottest of weather, it won't harm them not to walk.
  • Apply sunscreen to dogs who are regularly in the sun. They can suffer sunburn, too.
  • Give them cooling options – from converting toddler paddling pools into pet splash pools to buying pet cooling pads (this is Amazon's top-rated buy) so that they can cool off safely when they need to.

What temperature is too hot for pets?

Pets can suffer from heatstroke when the temperature outside (or in) reaches 80℉ or humidity of 90 per cent. Know that in a sunroom, for example, this temperature can be reached very quickly, and that a pet can begin to suffer quickly, too.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.