The cold weather’s finally giving way to warmer days! That means it’s almost time to get outside and enjoy the sun. And our dogs love summer as much as we do. Whether it’s a picnic, a hike, a swim in the lake, or a run, there’s no reason not to bring your canine partner along.
Or is there?
If you’re not careful, the warm weather can be dangerous for your dog. And yes, she can get heat stroke too.
A dog’s normal body temperature is between 100.5 to 102.5°. A dog can start to get heat stroke around 105°.
Here are some tips to keep your pets cool and happy in the hotter months.
1. Never Leave Your Dog In A Hot Car
If you have a dog, you know this one. It’s common sense.
Thousands of animals die every year in hot cars in America. And there’s no excuse for it.
Hot cars are deathtraps for animals. In less than 10 minutes, temperatures inside a car on a hot day can soar to a sizzling 109° and reach up to 160° if the car is parked in the direct sun. Even on a reasonably mild day of 78°, the temperature can reach 100° very quickly. Under those conditions, a dog can develop heat stroke and die.
If you’re driving around with your dog on a warm day, bring drinking water and a dish. Plan your errands to places your dog can join you. If you can’t take your dog out of the parked car on your errand, even if you’re only going to be inside for 2 minutes, the safest thing to do is leave her at home.
2. Plan Your Play Time
Early morning and late evening are the safest times for your dog to be outside in the summer. Plan your long walks or trips to the park based on this schedule. When your dog’s outside in direct sunlight, she’s at greater risk of heat stroke or dehydration.
If you get caught out in the sun and can’t find a cool spot, make your own shade by stringing up a towel or t-shirt as a tarp.
3. Keep Your Dog’s Paws Cool
Do you want to walk barefoot on hot sand or asphalt? Your dog does it every day in the hot summer months.
And that asphalt gets hot. If it’s 77°, the pavement can get up to 125°. At 87° or 88°, that sidewalk or road could be as hot as 145°.
Keep your dog off the pavement as much as possible. A good “rule of paw” is, if the ground's too hot for you, it’s too hot for her. Test it first by laying a bare hand or foot on the pavement for a few seconds. And also remember that a dog’s body, because it’s closer to the ground, will also soak up the heat radiating off the asphalt.
Instead, walk on the grass or in shaded areas. Go in the morning before the sun has had time to heat up the pavement. And remember, dogs don’t sweat like humans do. Your dog only has sweat glands in her nose and in the pads of her feet.
4. Keep Her Hydrated
A dog can go a long time without food, but water is a different story, especially in the hot summer months. Because dogs don’t sweat much, they keep themselves cool by panting, exhaling and releasing water through respiration.
But dogs also dehydrate quickly.
Make sure your dog has access to cool, fresh water, all the time.
5. Get A Kiddy Pool
Can’t get to the beach as often as your dog might like? Get a kiddy pool. Keep it filled in the backyard for your dog to enjoy whenever she wants to splash around and cool down.
Make sure that you give it a good clean every so often.
6. Keep The House Cool
Your air conditioner isn’t just a way to keep yourself comfortable. It can also make the summer much more comfortable for your dog. If you’re tempted to turn off the AC when you leave the house, remember, your home can turn into an oven for your dog.
Don’t have AC?
- A ceiling or standing fan can do the trick just as well.
- Keep the blinds pulled down or curtains drawn to prevent direct sunlight from heating up the house.
- Close the doors to rooms not being used.
- Put some ice cubes in a bowl in front of the fan to help cool the air.
7. Know The Signs Of Heat Stroke In Dogs
It’s important to know the signs of heat stroke to watch out for. If you don’t act quickly your dog could be in real trouble.
Signs of heat stroke include:
- Rapid breathing and panting
- Drooling or saliva that’s thicker than usual
- Staggering or lack of balance
- Muscle tremors
- An elevated body temperature
You should also watch for dehydration. It can be difficult to spot - some of the symptoms are subtle. One way to test is to pinch a fold of skin and see how slowly it snaps back. If it’s slow, dehydration should be a concern. The other signs of dehydration are:
- Dry mouth
- Sunken eyes
If you spot any signs of dehydration or heat stroke, head to the vet immediately. Encourage your pet to drink cool (not cold) water and wipe her down with a cool cloth. Cold ice water can actually slow the dog’s cooling processes.
Don't wrap your pet in cold towels and don’t drape the towels on her because this can trap in her body heat.
You can find other tips on how to protect your dog from heat stroke at this post from Dogs Naturally Magazine.
Remember, Not All Dogs Are Hot Dogs
Certain dogs fair better in the heat than others. Dogs with smaller noses and shorter nasal passages, such as pugs, Boston terriers and French bulldogs have a harder time panting and cooling the air. Dogs with thick coats will also struggle more in the summer. Just like humans, older dogs, dogs who have a pre-existing health problem such as diabetes, or dogs who are overweight are more susceptible to the risks of summer heat.
No matter what, keep an eye on your dog when the heat is on. She depends on you to keep a cool head.
Brenda Kimble is a freelance writer and also a mother of three kids, two cats, and a new cocker spaniel puppy named Duke! She loves blogging, crafting, and spending time with her family. She also enjoys strolling the streets of her quaint neighborhood in Austin, Texas and finding the trendiest hotspots for fashion, food, and live music.