It’s critically important to keep dogs cool in summer.
Even though this time of the year is typically filled with fun activities, hot weather can be downright dangerous for your pet. When the heat bears down, dogs can be at a high risk for all types of serious health problems.
Thankfully, though, there are many things you can do to keep that risk to a minimum. Here’s a look at what to do – and what NOT to do – to protect your pet when the temperature soars.
Why Hot Weather Can Be So Dangerous For Your Furry Friend
It can be really tempting to want to go outside with your pet when the weather is hot. You might want to get in a game of fetch, or to take your dog for a walk. But if you do get out, you need to be aware of why and how hot weather can take a toll on your furry friend.
If the temperature and humidity are both high, your dog’s ability to stay cool can be taxed. Dogs don’t sweat to keep cool the way humans do. Instead, sweat is released through their paw pads and for the main purpose of releasing pheromones. In an effort to stay cool, dogs pant instead. Panting takes moisture out of the lungs, and eventually out of the body. If it gets too hot, dogs may not be able to cool themselves well enough. That can make their body temperature spike to a dangerous level.1
In most instances, dogs can handle a temperature of about 90˚F – provided, of course, that they have water and a source of shade. But there’s no “magic number” as far as the temperature is concerned. Different dogs react to heat in different ways. Certain breeds, such as those with flat faces (including Pugs and Bulldogs), or dogs with thick coats of fur can’t cool themselves as well as other breeds.2
Your vet can give you an idea of what temperature your specific dog can tolerate and for how long.
Always Follow These Tips To Keep Your Pet From Getting Too Hot
This isn’t to suggest that you can’t ever take your pet outside when the temperature goes up. It’s just really important that dog parents take a few precautions when they’re with their pet in the heat. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Always Provide Shade
Finding plenty of shade can be a huge help if you and your pet are outside during hot weather. But if you think your dog will be okay in a doghouse, you’re mistaken. A doghouse can actually increase the heat your pet experiences. Trying setting up a large umbrella or a hang a tarp if you don’t have any trees to provide shade in your backyard.3
Make Sure Your Pet Has Plenty Of Cool Water
If your pet has to be outside in the summer heat, make sure there’s plenty of fresh water on hand. Dehydration can be fatal to dogs as well as humans, so check your pet’s water bowl regularly to make sure there’s a good supply. Keep the water bowl in the shade. You can even put some ice cubes in the water so your pet will be able to stay cool.
Watch How You Groom Your Pet
It would seem to make sense that if you have a pet with a lot of fur, you’d want to significantly cut that fur when the weather’s hot. But as it turns out, shaving your dog’s coat might actually lead to problems.
You see, a dog’s fur actually offers protection from the sun and from heat exhaustion. You should consider trimming the fur rather than a full-blown shave. Also, bathe and brush your pet regularly. This will not only keep them clean, it will also help keep air circulating around your dog. This may help keep them cool when the heat is on.4
If you plan on taking your pet to the beach, or you’ll be outside with your furry friend for an extended period of time, think about applying sunscreen. A sunburn can be as painful for a dog as a human.
Did you know there are actually sunscreens made for pets? Your vet can give you a recommendation as to which brand would be best for your dog. Avoid using human sunscreen on your pet unless your vet says it’s okay to do so. Some human sunscreens contain ingredients that can be toxic to pets.5
What Not To Do
As important as it is to provide plenty of water and shade on a hot day (along with the other tips mentioned above), it’s just as important to know what not to do on a hot day. Here are just a couple of things to avoid when the summer heat is in full effect.
Don’t Walk Your Dog On Hot Pavement
A dog’s paw pads are extremely sensitive. If you try walking your dog on hot pavement, that can lead to excruciating pain – and could possibly even burn their paws. Your dog has to get some exercise, of course, but try doing so during the cooler parts of the day.
A good rule of thumb is to hold the back of your hand on the pavement. Try to keep it there for five seconds. If you can’t, then the pavement is too hot for your dog’s paws.6
Never Leave Your Dog In A Hot Car For Any Period Of Time
Never ever leave a dog in a hot car. It won’t take any time at all for your beloved pet to suffer greatly if you do – even if they have access to water. If the outside temperature is 85˚F, the inside of your car can shoot up to 102˚F in as little as 10 minutes. Not only can this result in severe organ damage for your dog, it could even be fatal.7
Thankfully, most pet parents already know not to do this. But what do you do if you see a pet in a car on a hot day? There are some ways you can help.
- Write down the vehicle’s license plate number, as well as the model and make.
- If the vehicle is parked by a business, go inside and ask the manager to announce the vehicle information so the owner can be made aware of what’s going on.
- If that doesn’t work, call your local police (use the non-emergency number) and wait until they arrive.8
But what if the police don’t arrive for several minutes? Some states allow people to forcibly open a vehicle to remove an animal in danger if there are no other options. Check your state and local laws to learn more about what you’re legally allowed to do if you see an animal in a hot car in distress.9
Signs Your Dog Is Too Hot
How can you tell if your dog is overheated? Potential signs of heat stroke in dogs include:
- Excessive drooling
- Rapid breathing/panting
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Muscle tremors10,11
If you have any reason whatsoever to believe your dog is suffering from distress related to heat, get them in a cool place as fast as possible. In the case of heat stroke, wrap some wet, cool towels around your dog’s belly. If you suspect dehydration, offer some water.12
Take your pet straight to the vet if they continue to show signs of a problem.
Have Fun, But Be Careful
As stated earlier, this isn’t meant to be a recommendation that you never take your dog outside during summer. As long as you use some common-sense precautions, including keeping plenty of cool water on hand, both you and your pooch can stay happy and healthy in the warmer weather.
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About the author
Dr. Gary Richter, MS, DVM loves animals, and is passionate about keeping them healthy and happy as long as possible. He has received more than 30 awards due to his expertise in the field, and The American Veterinary Medical Foundation recently named Dr. Richter “America’s Favorite Veterinarian.” Dr. Richter has been at the forefront of pet nutrition for two decades, and he is also the author of the bestselling “The Ultimate Pet Health Guide.”