I know that, technically, summer started a few weeks ago, but I tend to start thinking “summer” right around Independence Day. Personally, I love the warm weather as well as the extra time off that we often get, but I know that not everyone appreciates it as I do. In particular, we all have to be vigilant in taking care of our dogs’ needs as the mercury begins to rise.
Unlike humans, who sweat easily, dogs cool themselves from a couple of primary locations: their mouths via panting, and the pads of their feet. Due to this limited cooling system, dogs tend to overheat more easily than humans. Moreover, the “brachycephalic” dogs – those with pushed in snouts such as boxers, pugs and bulldogs – can overheat even faster. According to Dr. Nancy Kay, symptoms of heatstroke can include “increased heart rate, labored breathing, weakness, collapse, purplish gum color, and even seizures and coma.” So, how can you keep your dog cool during the warm summer months?
The most important thing is water. Drinking water should be plentiful and fresh every day. Additionally, placing a wading pool in a convenient location can offer respite to the overheated pooch. Often, simply standing in the water will cool him down considerably. With smaller dogs, be certain that the water is easy to get in and out of, and that it’s not so deep that your dog cannot lie down in it while still keeping his head up.
Cooling treats are also a good idea to help a warm dog cool down. Kongs stuffed with frozen treats, or even just with soaked, frozen kibble, can be fun and refreshing. Another alternative is to make “fun ice”, with water or chicken broth frozen and filled with your dog’s favorite treats and toys. This can provide plenty of mental stimulation as well as thirst-quenching entertainment on a hot afternoon.
Shade is also vital. Be sure that your dog has access to cool and shady areas when you are away. Often times, dog houses set in sunny areas can become unbearably hot inside, so be certain to offer additional shade if this is the case. Ideal shady spots should be open and airy, to allow for air circulation as well as respite from the direct sun.
Finally, remember that even on a relatively cool day the temperature inside of a car can climb to staggering heat in a very short while. If you will not be able to take your dog with you out of the car, it is usually best to leave him at home for a particular outing. When you do take him, be sure to take drinking water along for him as well as for the family. Dehydration can increase the likelihood of a dog overheating. On particularly hot days, consider bringing a spray bottle to wet him down and keep him cooler throughout the day. The best places to wet a warm dog are the belly and pads of the feet. Avoid wetting the top of a dark colored dog, as this can actually cause it to overheat by locking in the heat.
Dogs are our family friends and companions. Summer is a great time to spend more time with them as the days become longer and we participate in more outdoor activities. Remaining aware of the temperature and its effects on your pooch will assure that your dog remains comfortable and healthy at every outing and throughout the summer.