As summer temperatures soar, it's essential to remember that our dogs have permanent fur coats and cannot tell us when they are overheated or dehydrated. It is up to us to keep our dogs cool and know the danger warning signs. Beyond our dogs, there are also things we can do to spread the word about summer safety and to alert or inform other dog owners.
Dogs who become overheated can suffer irreversible damage to their organs and possibly die. Prevention measures, recognizing the early warning signs, and getting immediate attention could just save a life.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, "the temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes, and almost 30º F in 20 minutes. The longer you wait, the higher it goes. At one hour, your vehicle's inside temperature can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Even on a 70-degree day, that's 110 degrees inside your vehicle!" Studies indicate that cars heat this rapidly even if the air conditioning is left on or the window is cracked open.
During hot days, limit outdoor activities by going out for shorter periods. If early mornings and evenings are cooler, they may be better times. Also, decrease your dog's regular level of exertion. For example, instead of running long-distance, consider shorter walks on hot days.
Dogs naturally shed in the summer months, and you can help speed up this process with frequent brushing or a grooming trim. Be aware that dogs' coats protect their skin from sunburn, so you don't want to groom or shave their fur too closely.
Ensure your dog has plenty to drink, especially if you are out and about on a warm day. You can also provide a kiddie pool, cool shower, or let them play in the sprinklers. Keep in mind that water may not cool off dogs with heavier coats, but you can wet down their paws, chest, and underbelly to help them cool off. Some dogs may enjoy a wet towel cover or a cooling mat to sit on.
Ice cubes or frozen dog popsicles and treats help cool dogs down as well! We'd love to hear about your cooling treat recipes - message us on Instagram!
The early warning signs of overheating include excessive panting, increased water intake, above-normal drooling, and lack of energy. These indicators mean it's time to slow down and cool off! Puppies, older or overweight dogs, and dogs with other health issues are at greater risk of heat exhaustion. Short-snouted dogs are prone to breathing complications, especially when it's humid. So, keep an extra watchful eye on these types of dogs and situations.
If your dog's temperature is over 104 degrees, this may be a sign of overheating. If you suspect your dog is dehydrated, you can also test by pinching their skin. If it doesn't bounce back they may be dehydrated. Other symptoms include:
- Disorientation or dizziness
- Bloody diarrhea
- Dry gums
- Glazed or red eyes
- Difficulty breathing
Call or go to your vet if your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms!
Test asphalt or sand with your hand. It is too hot for your dog's paws, if it is too hot for your touch. Limit walks to shaded areas or consider dog shoes if the hot pavement is difficult to avoid. Signs of burned paws include limping, licking or chewing, discoloration, blisters and other sores. If you see these signs, clean the paw with cool water and use cold compresses to relieve pain. Then take your dog to the vet for treatment and to avoid the risk of infection.
Pet owners may think they are doing right by their dogs, taking them along for summertime outings. They may not be aware of all the dangers, so each of us can do our part to educate and share important information gently. Here are some things you can do:
- Post reminders on social media.
- Ask your vet and local pet stores to hang flyers.
Petminded's Dog Scientist Laisuna says, "It's always a bit tricky negotiating with other people about their dogs. But, people sometimes forget their dog may be uncomfortable in the midst of an outing, and a gentle reminder usually does the trick. If I see someone's dog is hot, I casually comment, 'What a cute dog! Wow, it's really hot out today, isn't it? Man, your dog looks hot - is he okay?' I'll also offer water if I can."
Laisuna also reminds us to be aware of our blind spots and be open to feedback. "People have also pulled this script with me! I know they are just looking out for my dog." When she goes out on hot days, she always carries water, walks where she knows there are shady spots to stop, and tests the ground first. "If it's hot for you, it's too hot for them. Find some shade or stay home, if possible!"