Warm summer days offer more time for you to spend outside with your dog. While bright sun and hot temperatures of summer may be nice for a day outside for us, they can be dangerous for dogs.
All dogs are susceptible to heat stroke but dark colored dogs, overweight dogs, older or frail dogs, and brachycephalic dogs (those cute dogs with smashed in noses) are at higher risk than others. Dogs, especially light colored ones, are also susceptible to sunburn. The good news is that these threats to your pooch are preventable.
How do you avoid overheating your four legged friend?
Keep your dog’s fur trimmed in the summer. Keep your dog cool in the summer by keeping thick or long fur under control. Don’t go too short when trimming your dog however, if too much skin is exposed your dog may get sunburned. Limit the time you spend in the direct, midday sun with your dog. Don’t keep them in the backyard without shade and plenty of water to drink. You can even help keep your dog cool in the summer months by keeping a kid sized pool in a shaded area for your dog to splash around in.
Never leave your dog unattended in your car or truck. The heat inside a vehicle, even one in the shade, can climb very quickly. At times, the heat in your car can go up to double what it is outside. You may think you can help them keep cool by leaving a window open, but that really doesn’t offer much help. Take them with you when you leave your vehicle. If you can’t, do your dog a favor and leave them home.
When you walk your dog in the summer months, remember the pads on their feet are sensitive. You can help keep them cool by watching where they are walking. Sidewalks and road surfaces are extremely hot when they are receiving direct sunshine. Help your dog keep cool by walking them on grassy surfaces when the sun is at its hottest. If you do take your dog hiking or cycling long distances consider outfitting them with shoes like Ruffwear’s Grip Trex booties available in all sizes at The Moab BARKery. Also consider conditioning their paws with a non-Shea butter base paw balm (Shea butter softens the pads but does not condition them) like Joshua Tree Pet Salve also available at The Moab BARKery.
Be extra diligent about having fresh, cool water on hand for your pet. If you are walking with your dog, or spending the day at the park, be sure to have plenty of water with you to help keep your dog hydrated. Many companies make portable water bowls that fold away into a size that is easily carried in a pocket. The Moab BARKery carries Outward Hound™ and Tazlab™ products that are durable and affordable for dogs of all sizes. There are also products available that have a water system similar to a Camel-back™ built into dog packs so your dog can carry their own water as well as gear.
Cool-It Bandanas, Cool Vests and Cool Mats are also a great way to keep your pooch cool while they are enjoying their time outdoors. These products are designed to cool your dog, targeting the areas of their body (neck, chest and “armpits”) that are most efficient in body temperature regulation. All of these products must be soaked in water prior to use and can provide up to 2 hours of evaporative cooling.
If your dog has become overheated you will know it by how they act. Heat exhaustion comes first with the symptoms of excessive panting and flushed skin (easiest to recognize in the ears and mucous membranes) or the dog is hot to the touch. Without treatment, heat exhaustion will escalate. Look for symptoms like a body temperature of over 104F degrees (normal range is 100-102), increased heart rate and breathing, salivation, vomiting and/or diarrhea, weakness or dizziness, stumbling, depression or subdued behavior, seizures and loss of consciousness.
If your dog is showing signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke, take action immediately. First, take them to a cooler place; spray them for a few minutes with cool- not cold- water, without submersing them. If it’s not possible or practical to spray them down, soak some towels with water and place them on the head and neck, feet, and abdomen. Place icepacks around them if you can and use electric or even makeshift manual fans to cool them off. Apply rubbing alcohol in the “armpits” and on the pads of the feet. Do not force them to drink but you may offer water if they are well enough to drink.
Take their temperature after your first wave of cooling attempts. If their temperature is not down to a normal range, you must take them to a vet immediately. Even if they seem to have improved, there’s a chance that internal damage has been done if their fever was over 104F degrees and they may experience organ failure, heart and respiratory problems, seizures, or death.
Preventing Sunburn in Dogs…
Just like humans, dogs can be burned by the sun, especially the nose, tips of the ears and around the lip area. Common sense dictates that you keep your dog in the shade during the hours when the sun rays are most intense. However if you need to be outside during these times it is okay to apply sun-block to your dog’s nose and the exposed skin on the ears. It is okay if the dog licks the sun-block, because most are not toxic, BUT, you should always avoid sun-blocks that contain zinc or PABA. If you notice that any portion of your dog’s skin is reddened or blistered, contact your veterinarian right away.
You may want your dog with you as much as possible, but for the sake of their health you should know when they can be with you, and when they should just stay home. Keeping your dog cool in the summer months is not that hard as long as you give it a little thought. Keep exposure to the midday sun to a minimum, offer plenty of water and shade, and keep exercise to a minimum. They will love you for it.