Photo courtesy Helen Woodward Animal Center

As we head into the holiday weekend, Helen Woodward Animal Center wants to remind all pet owners to pay special attention to their furry family members.

 Weather reports are predicting the hottest temperatures of the year through Tuesday evening, signaling a severely increased risk for family pets.

Over the past few weeks, San Diegans have already been struggling through a grueling heatwave but this holiday weekend, temperatures along the coast and inland valleys are expected to rise another 5 to 7 degrees in most parts of the county with inland, mountain, and desert temperatures in the low-90s to 100s. 

Because we are so connected to our pets, it is easy to forget that they are not just like us and are MORE sensitive to summertime dangers than we are.  It is important to remember that while humans are covered in pores that generate sweat, helping us cool down, dogs and cats only have sweat glands in their noses and feet.  This helps our fuzzy friends stay warm outdoors during the winter months, but can create highly dangerous conditions during the summer months.

Please keep the following summer safety tips in mind:



  1. SUNLIGHT EXPOSURE – Dogs or cats with white noses or ear tips can get sunburn.  If your pet will wear sunscreen, that’s great.   But most of them will lick it off.   It’s best to just keep them in the shade when the sun is bright.
  2. If the pavement or sidewalk is too hot for your feet, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. The pads can easily be burned on hot days.
  3. HEAT EXPOSURE – The normal body temperature for a dog is 101 to 102 degrees. 
  4. A 3-degree rise can put a dog into a dangerous situation and increase its need for oxygen.  
  5. At 108 degrees the heart, brain, liver, kidneys, and intestinal tracts begin to break down.
  6. Don’t leave your dog or cat in a car. 
    (At 70 degrees on a sunny day, after a half hour, the temperature inside a car is 104 degrees. After an hour, it can reach 113 degrees.
    When the temperatures outside range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130 to 172)
  7. Make sure that your pets have plenty of water and shade.
  8. “Smooshed” faced breeds of dogs (Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, etc.) are more susceptible to heat stroke and respiratory distress.


  1. Your pet is panting to the point that it can’t catch its breath.
  2. Your pet is weak and lethargic.
  3. Your pet is dehydrated.
  4. Your pet has a wobbly, uncoordinated, or drunken gait.
  5. Your pet is displaying excessive drooling


  1. Bring it into air conditioning.
  2. Immerse it in cool (not cold) water and give it “sips” of water.
  3. Apply ice packs, if necessary.
  4. Immediately take your dog to your veterinarian.


  1. Keep pets away from hot barbeque grills or coals.  (No ribs or chicken bones either!!!)
  2. Store pesticides and fertilizers out of reach of pets.


  1. Consider your pet’s fitness level.  If your pet regularly only gets minimal exercise, they can suffer fatigue from hours and miles of hiking.  Dogs that walk or run regularly will be better able to keep up with the activity without serious fatigue. 
  2. Consider the terrain of your hike.  If there are rocky areas or hot asphalt trails, dogs’ feet can get cut or burned from contact with rough surfaces.  Dogs with more sensitive paws or ones that are not used to rugged outdoor terrain are at a greater risk. 
  3. Consider the environment of the hike.  Many dogs are allowed off-leash on trails but it might not be safe with the wildlife in the area.  Southern California is known for coyotes and rattlesnakes in particular.  Walking in the middle of the trail and avoiding letting your dog sniff under bushes or run off trail can prevent wildlife encounters. 

CENTER INFORMATION:  Helen Woodward Animal Center – (858) 756-4117, or go online at