4 Tips to Help Your Dog Keep Cool This Summer
There’s a reason they call the hottest part of the summer “the dog days.” Our fuzzy friends, with a thick layer of fur and no ability to sweat, get very warm when the temperature rises. Unlike humans, though, they can’t catch an afternoon matinee with a large Icee. Luckily, there are some ways you can keep your pup cool — read on to learn more.
Keep Water Flowing
One of the easiest ways for your dog to stay cool (and, of course, hydrated) is by drinking water. Make sure that your dog has easy access to a dish of fresh, cool water at all times, whether in the house, outside, or in the car. Drinking water helps your dog keep his internal furnace from getting too hot, and helps lower the risk of heat exhaustion or sun stroke. In addition to having water in the car, it probably goes without saying that you should never leave your dog in the car on a hot day. If your pet won’t be able to get out with you, leave him at home. Better lonely than in danger! If you do leave your dog at home, make sure you know the house will stay at a cool temperature. There are easy ways to do this — for example, some security companies offer systems that can monitor home temperature, so you know if the power has gone out.
Just like you seek out the cool shadows of trees and umbrellas on hot days, your dog needs some shade, as well. Make sure your dog has plenty of access to shaded areas, particularly if he is more of an outdoor pet. If your yard doesn’t offer natural shade, set up an umbrella for your pup, with cool water and a place to lie down underneath. This will give your dog a place to take respite from the heat, and protect him from sunburn — contrary to popular belief, dogs are able to get burnt, especially on delicate areas like nose or paws.
Of course, even in hot weather, your dog needs exercise. However, if you get your dog moving too much during hotter parts of the day, you’re again putting him at risk of heat exhaustion or sun stroke. To avoid such dangers, walk your dog during cooler times of the day, like early morning or late evening, when he’ll be able to handle the temperature. Doing this also helps protect your dogs paws. Just like it hurts when you walk barefoot on hot pavement, those little pads on the bottom of your pet’s feet can burn. Check the temperature of the pavement with your palm. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog, and you’ll have to find an earlier or later walking time.
If your dog does get overheated, you’ll need to take quick measures to ensure your dog’s well-being. Signs that your dog is suffering from heat stroke include heavy panting and difficulty breathing and vomiting. The dog’s rectal temperature will rise from 104 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and seizures and coma can rapidly ensue, leading to death. If your dog displays any of these signs, immediately move him away from the heat, ideally into an air-conditioned location. Take his rectal temperature every 10 minutes. If the temperature is higher than 104 degrees, cool your dog off by spraying him with a hose or immersing him in a tub of cool water for up to 2 minutes. It’s important that the water be cool, not icy, to avoid risk of hypothermia. You can also place your wet dog in front of a fan to cool him further, or place cool packs on the groin area and wipe his paws with cool rags. Continue cooling your dog until his rectal temperature drops below 103 — at this point further cooling could lead to hypothermia. Make sure always to take your dog to the vet following a heat stroke episode, since heat stroke can lead to further complications. Your dog may also need to be re-hydrated through an IV.
Of course, as long as you take the proper precautions, your dog will have a fun and happy summer. Just make sure he has plenty of fluids and access to a cool space.
Vicky is a part-time tech assistant for an animal hospital and a freelance writer for several blogs about pet care.