Air conditioning is a summer staple, and you’ve probably lamented before that you simply couldn’t live without it. Guess what--your furry friend is in the same boat. Help Fido and Fluffy by setting the perfect A/C temperature to protect them during the dog days of summer.
Body temperature: You vs. your pets
You don’t enjoy sudden, dramatic temperature changes, and neither does your pet. This is especially true in the summer months, with people turning their air conditioner unit off as they leave for work.
Standard human body temperature is 98.6 degrees, but household pets typically are warmer, making them even more susceptible to the summer heat. A dog’s average body temperature measures at 101.5 degrees, while the body temperature of cats is usually around 100 degrees. While the specific body temperature of your pet may vary by breed (larger pets commonly have warmer body temperatures than smaller pets), if you use the averages listed above you can assume your pet will be warmer or cooler based on how they compare to the overall average size. Pets with longer, heavier coats are also apt to a warmer body temperature than those with shorter coats.
Understanding factors beyond size and coat
In addition to the breed of your pet, there are other behaviors and traits that can improve or reduce their risk of illness in hot weather. For example: cats, as a whole, are naturally more likely to modify their activity in hot weather, reducing the heat they generate via muscle activity.
In addition, pets of any breed are more susceptible to the heat and heat-related conditions, like heat stroke, if they are older, overweight or if they suffer from a lung or heart disease. Finally, those lovable pets with smashed faces — like bulldogs, pugs or Persian cats — face a higher risk of overheating because they are unable to pant as effectively as their longer-snouted brethren.
Finding the best environment for your pet
While the exact degree temperature that is perfect for your pet is highly subjective, veterinarians agree that a temperature of 78-80 degrees is optimal. If such temperatures are difficult to achieve on those warmest days, there are other strategies you can employ to help your pets stay cool.
For starters, let your pet reside in the coolest area of your home. If your home has a basement, this is the perfect spot, as basements are generally cooler than the rest of your home. If your home doesn’t have a basement, look for a space with a cool, non-carpeted floor where they can spread out. Placing a fan in close proximity can also help. Make sure to keep plenty of water on hand so your pet can drink when they need to and avoid dehydration. You can also put ice in your pet’s bowl, but make sure to try this for the first time when you are home. Some pets actually feel anxiety at the presence of ice in their water, and you don’t want your pet to avoid their water while you are gone.
Spotting warning signs of heat illness in your pet
If you are concerned your pet may be overheating or you’ve just arrived home and your pet doesn’t look quite right, look for the following heat-related sicknesses in your pet:
If you notice any of these telltale signs in your pet, contact your veterinarian immediately. Your vet will help you determine if you need to bring your pet in or if some other remedy will help alleviate the symptoms. Whatever the result, don’t wait to make this call, as doing so promptly will help your best friend feel happier and healthier even sooner.