The hot summer months are fast approaching which means sun, beach and plenty of outdoor adventures are upon us! It’s a great time of year to bond with our dogs, but the hotter temperatures also bring about an increased risk of heat stroke. Dogs do not sweat in the same way humans do, which means they’re much more susceptible to overheating.
While dogs do have sweat glands in their paw pads and inside their noses, it is believed that neither serve the function of helping your dogs cool down when they are hot… at least not efficiently. The most efficient way dogs stay cool in warmer temperatures is through panting. Dogs pant as a means of evaporative cooling: when a dog gets hot, it will open his/her mouth to breath heavily. As water evaporates from your dog’s tongue, nasal passages and lungs, their body temperature will begin to lower.
We compiled a few tips to help keep those fuRRbabies safe this summer!
KNOW THE SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE
Your dog’s normal body temperature is between 100° and 103°F. Anything higher can mean your pet is in danger. Here are the signs to watch for:
- heavy panting
- dry or bright red gums
- bright red tongue
- thick drool and/or excess salivation
- vomiting and/or diarrhea
- wobbly legs
- increased heart rate
- distressed breathing
- muscle tremors
- mental confusion/delirium
WHILE OUTDOORS, PROVIDE PLENTY OF SHADE AND WATER
Because dogs are at a much higher risk for heat stroke, this tip is an important one. Always provide an easy route for your pets to escape the outdoor heat with access to the cool air conditioning within your home. If access to air conditioning is not an option, make sure your dog has plenty of access to fresh clean water and shade!
AVOID WALKS DURING MIDDAY HOURS
It gets hot during the day; even more so if you live somewhere temperatures can reach triple digits regularly throughout the summer months. When walking and exercising your dogs, try to do so in the early morning and late evening hours. Middle of the day walks should be avoided and/or kept brief; just long enough for your dogs to take care of their business. When you have to be outdoors for longer periods of time, be sure to take a lot of breaks in the shade and provide plenty of water for drinking.
KEEP THOSE PAWS COOL
Dogs heat and cool from the bottom up. If you are out in the sun, avoid hot surfaces like cement and asphalt. Not only can these hot surfaces actually burn the bottom of their paw pads, it also increases body temperatures which can lead to quick overheating.
When spraying your dog with water, be sure to spray their paws as well. If you’re using a wet towel, it is actually better to rub their paws and stomachs with a cool towel versus their top coat.
You can also go the dog bootie route to help protect their paws from burns! Because dogs have sweat glands in their paws, we don’t recommend booties for extended use during hot summer months because they can also contribute to overheating. However they’re a great alternative for those quick midday, potty breaks to avoid burns. A good rule of thumb is that if the sidewalks are too hot for you to walk barefoot on, then they're too hot for your dogs to walk on as well.
DO NOT SHAVE YOUR PUPS
Plenty of people groom their dogs on a regular basis and during the summer months it might seem like a no-brainer to help prevent overheating. Dog coats however, are naturally designed to help keep them cool during the summer and warm in the winter. Trimming your dog’s fur in the summer is totally fine, but never shave all the way down. And be sure to leave at least a full inch of fur to protect their skin from sunburn.
Believe it or not dogs are susceptible to sunburns too, especially those with short or light-colored coats. And just like in humans, sunburns are painful and can lead to eventual skin cancer. If you are planning to spend a day out in the sun with your dogs, be sure to apply pet-specific sunscreen every 3 to 4 hours, especially in areas more easily prone to sunburn: bellies, ears, nose. Please do not use human sunscreen on your pets. There are specially formulated suncreens made for pets and your vet can advise which products would be best suitable for your dog's needs.
If you suspect your dog has heatstroke or is showing signs, your focus should be to immediately try and normalize their body temperature.
- Remove your pet from the hot environment immediately.
- Apply or spray cool water onto your dog’s fur & skin. If possible, aim a fan in their direction to maximize heat loss.
- Wetting down the area around your pet can also help.
- Don’t use ice-cold water or ice, as this may worsen the problem.
- Take your dog to the vet immediately.
Heatstroke is nothing to laugh about and far too many pets succumb to it on a yearly basis. In the event that you suspect your pet is in danger of heatstroke, always seek veterinary care.
Be sure and enjoy those summer months and as always, stay safe!