Pets are an important part of the family, so the desire to include them in outdoor activities is only natural. However, we as owners have a responsibility to keep our pets cool and safe during the hot summer months. With today being National Heat Awareness Day, we wanted to provide tips to keep your animal friends happy and healthy as the temperatures soar.

Overheating – Know the Signs!
Overheating begins as soon as the internal body temperature of a pet rises above normal levels. Overheating leads to heat exhaustion and eventually heat stroke. The effects of heat stroke are life-threatening and come on swiftly. Therefore, it is important to recognize the signs, which include:

  • Excessive panting and thirst and difficulty breathing
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion and loss of attention
  • Loss of coordinator
  • Glazed eyes
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fever
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gums turning blue/gray or bright red

It’s also important to note that some pets are more susceptible to the heat than others. Risk factors include long hair or thick coats, age (both the very young and very old are at higher risk), weight and preexisting heart or lung problems. Brachycephalic pets are also at enhanced risk. This includes pets with short, flat faces, such as pugs and bulldogs or Persian cats. Take these factors into consideration before planning summer activities with your pet – not every animal is physiologically equipped to be your running partner or hiking buddy.
Brachycephalic pets like Bruno (left) and Carlton (middle) and pets with long fur or thick coats like Emmeline (right) are at higher risk of overheating. All three are currently available for adoption.
Overheated? Take Action Now!
Time is of the essence if your pet has become dangerously overheated. Take the following steps as soon as possible:

  • Move your pet out of the heat. Indoors with access to air conditioning is best, but even a shaded outdoor area is better than the direct sunlight.
  • Encourage your pet to sit/lie down.
  • Offer water, but do not force your pet to drink.
  • Soak towels in cool, not cold, water and place on your pet’s neck, armpits and groin. Avoid using cold water. The rapid change in temperature can lead to shock.
Tucker understands a shady spot and a pool of water are both great ways to beat the heat. Tucker is currently available for adoption.
Practice Car Safety
If you’ve ever owned a car with leather seats then you know how hot the inside of a car can get during the summer. The interiors of cars become dangerously hot extremely fast, so you should never leave your pet unattended in a car. On a 70° day, the inside of your car can reach 90° in just 10 minutes. After half an hour, the interior will be closer to 105°. It is also important to note that parking your car in the shade or cracking the windows has little impact on the temperature inside the car.

In the same vein, it is illegal in Virginia to leave unattended a tethered dog outside when temperatures reach 85° and above, 32° and below, or in the midst of hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather events. This life-saving legislation passed into law in 2020 thanks to the efforts of Sen. Lionell Spruill of Chesapeake, a 2019 recipient of the Norfolk SPCA’s Thomas M. Ammons, III Award for Animal Welfare.
Boseman would love to be your car's co-pilot. Just remember to never leave him, or any other animal, alone in a car.
Fry Eggs, Not Paws
“It’s so hot outside you could fry an egg on the sidewalk” has become a summertime cliché, but it is useful to remember that sidewalks and streets can become damagingly hot on the unprotected paws of our four-legged friends. Asphalt can reach 125° when the outside air is just 77°. At 125° paw pads can suffer burns in just a minute.

How can you tell if your pet’s paws are burned? Pay attention to your pet as they will likely let you know. Pets with burned paws might limp, favor a paw, vocalize or chew and bite at a paw. Additionally, the pet may show a reluctance to continue walking. You can also examine the paws for yourself. Damaged paw pads will usually darken. If the damage is severe enough, blisters may also form.

Take the following steps if your pet has a burned paw:

  • Move your pet to a cool place, preferably inside. You may need to carry your pet if they are reluctant to walk on their burned paw.
  • Flush the paw with cool water and/or apply a cold compress.
  • Discourage your pet from licking the injured paw.
  • Contact your veterinarian.

Of course, prevention is the best form of treatment. Follow the five-second rule before walking your pet on a warm day. Simply place a hand or bare foot on the pavement for five seconds. If the pavement is too hot for your skin, then it is also too hot for your pet.

We hope these tips will lead to a fun and safe summer for you and your pets!

Now in its 130th year, the Norfolk SPCA is one of the oldest animal welfare organizations in the United States. We are reliant on the generosity of others as we continue to provide life-saving care in the Hampton Roads community. Visit to make a gift today. We thank you for your contributions.

To learn more about Bruno, Carlton, Emmeline, Tucker, Boseman, and all of our other adoptable pets visit or drop by our Adoption Center between 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. As a reminder, the Adoption Center is closed on Tuesdays. The Adoption Center will also be closed on Monday, May 30 in observance of Memorial Day.