Keeping your dog safe from Summer Heat
The dog days of summer are creeping up quickly. No matter where you are in the country, you’re probably starting to feel the heat. As temperatures spike, it can create dangerous conditions that could lead to serious health concerns for your dog. Chances are if it's too hot for you to be outside, it’s too hot for your dog.
Unlike humans who sweat from certain places on their bodies to cool themselves down, dogs accomplish this mostly by panting, as well as a little bit of sweating from their paws only. Any time you and your dog are outside on a hot summer day, it’s imperative that you monitor them for signs of heat exhaustion. One of the first signs your dog is overheating is an increase in panting. They will do this in an effort to lower their body temperature. Another easy-to-spot symptom of heat exhaustion in dogs is excessive drooling. If you notice your dog is panting heavily, drooling a lot, or acting lethargic, it’s probably time to get them inside and get them hydrated.
The most important thing you can do for your dog when you are outside in the heat is to provide them with plenty of water. Just as you need water when you’re outside or being active, your dog does, too. If they get too dehydrated it could lead to severe consequences such as organ damage and even death.
Typically, the recommended water intake for a dog is one ounce per pound of body weight. However, if your dog is outside and it’s hot, they will need more. You can bring a bowl and a large insulated water bottle along on outdoor adventures. There are even special collapsible bowls and water bottles made specifically for dogs, that are easy to transport and easy for your dog to use. Since a dog will not ask for water even if they need it, you have to be able to read the signs. Be sure to offer your dog water regularly at any time you are out in the heat. To cool them down, even more, you can add some ice cubes to your dog’s bowl. Dogs aren’t picky though, so any water will do, just make sure it’s clean.
Even if you are providing your dog with plenty of water, they can still overheat if temperatures are high enough. If you plan to be outside in the sun with them for extended periods of time, make sure there is a shady area nearby where they can take some breaks to cool off. A nice shady tree will do just fine. Soaking in water is also a great way to get your dog cooled down quickly. If your dog is already very hot, just be sure to let them dip their feet in for a while first before submerging themselves, so they don’t put their body into shock.
Letting your dog swim in a body of water like the beach, lake, or pool is a great way to keep them cool and have fun at the same time. If you don’t have easy access to a large body of water, a kiddie pool or the hose are simple at-home solutions. Your dog will love splashing around in their own private pool or chasing the sprinkler back and forth across the lawn.
Cool treats are a nice summer snack to keep your dog’s temperature down and fuel them for summer fun. Frozen fruits and veggies like carrot sticks and apples are a perfect snack to freeze ahead of time and bring in a cooler with you on the go. If you’re at home, a pupsicle is a great summer treat you can make for your dog to enjoy. Just blend up a variety of dog-friendly foods, freeze them, and serve. There are tons of recipes online, but here are a few to try.
Another simple at-home remedy to the summer heat is a fan. A nice breeze, man-made or not, will help your dog feel more comfortable. If you’re hanging around on the patio, bring a fan outside and point it at your dog so they can stay cool. Even if you utilize a fan and shade, it’s smart to have your dog take breaks inside. Once you notice the signs they are getting too warm, have them sit inside in the air conditioning for a while until they cool down. Once they’ve cooled off, they can go back to enjoying the summer sun.
Even just short walks in the heat can do a number on your dog when the temperature is very high. We can usually spot our dogs panting and see they are too warm, but we often can’t see the damage that the hot pavement is doing to their paws. On hot days, always check the pavement before letting your dog walk on it. You can test the temperate by using your hand. If you can’t place the back of your hand on the asphalt for more than 7 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog to walk on.
If the ground is too hot, it can cause your dog’s paws to crack and bleed, and can even cause severe burns that need medical treatment. It’s best to try to avoid hot pavement altogether by walking your dog on the grass. If you live in a place where that isn't necessarily possible, like a big city, it’s a good idea to invest in some booties that will protect their paw pads. A pair like these that use a breathable material is best. Remember that dogs’ paws are one of the ways they regulate their body temperature, so you want to make sure there is adequate airflow to their paws even if they are wearing shoes. It might take a few minutes for your dog to get used to walking with something on their feet, but you will enjoy the laughs watching them figure it out, and you will both be happy to be protecting their precious paws.
To avoid the scorching pavement, try to take your dog for walks when the sun is not at its peak. Early morning or evening strolls should be more gentle on their paws since the pavement has had some time to cool. The outdoor temperature is also usually cooler at that time so it will be all-around more enjoyable.
Long-haired dogs like huskies and dogs with breathing issues like bulldogs often feel the heat more than others. If you have one of these types of breeds, or your dog has other health concerns that might make them more susceptible to heat, you should always act with extra caution when taking them outside in the summer. The signs of distress might begin faster in these dogs than others.
Believe it or not, dogs with light-colored or thin fur are actually susceptible to sunburns and can even get skin cancer. Under light fur is often light skin, which can burn quickly. Breeds like pit bulls often have light skin and are prone to sunburn, and hairless breeds are especially at risk. Sunburns on dogs can be painful just as they are for humans. If your dog falls into one of these categories, always be sure to use a dog-safe sunscreen if you plan on being in the sun for extended periods of time. This one from Epi-Pet is the only FDA-approved version on the market and it comes in an easy-to-use aerosol.
Prevention is always key. If you keep watching for any signs of distress in your dog and follow the tips above, your dog should be able to safely enjoy the sunshine and heat all summer long.