8 cool ways to keep your dog happy, healthy this summer
By Aleza Freeman, Pet Lifestyle Contributor
We’re deep in the dog days of summer, (woof!) and that means lots of time for fun in the sun with your canine counterpart.
It also means soaring temperatures, hot asphalt and fleas.
Whether you’re planning a road trip, heading to the beach or just looking forward to lounging poolside with your pup, there are extra precautions to take in summer.
Fun can turn fatal for dogs if you’re not prepared. But we’re here to help your furry bestie avoid a summer meltdown.
Read on to learn more about the dangers of the hottest season and 8 Cool Tips for keeping your dog happy and healthy all summer long.
Heat warning: Because dogs don’t sweat it
You and your cuddle buddy love doing everything together, but when it comes to staying cool, your dog’s body handles things differently.
For humans, sweating is a very effective cooling mechanism. However, dogs don’t sweat the way we do, and their ability to cool down and reduce their body heat is much more limited.
Those limitations increase for dogs with long and thick coats, overweight dogs, puppies, elderly dogs and breeds with short noses and flat faces like pugs and Pekinese.
Your dog can sweat a little through the glands in their paw pads and nose. However, dogs primarily reduce their body temperature by panting—not the most effective way to cool down. The Humane Society of the United States warns that panting is even less effective during times of high humidity.
The normal body temperature for dogs is between 100.2 degrees and 102.8 degrees. However, when their cooling mechanisms are overwhelmed they may no longer be able to retain this. If your dog’s body temperature rises above 104 degrees he or she may be in serious danger of overheating or worse.
How to tell if your dog is overheated
If your dog’s panting grows excessively heavy and is followed by disorientation or fast, noisy breathing, the American Kennel Club (AKC) warns your dog may be overheated.
Overheating is not something to take lightly. It can quickly lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke or even death.
More signs to look for:
- Increased heart rate
- Bright red or blue gums
- Elevated body temperature over 104 degrees
If you suspect your dog is in trouble, the Humane Society of the U.S. recommends moving him to a shady or air-conditioned spot, applying ice packs and cold towels, encouraging him to lick ice cubes or drink water and contacting your vet immediately.
How to tell if your dog is dehydrated
Hydration is just as important for pets as it is for humans. Your dog won’t function properly if he loses too much water and electrolytes. Severe dehydration may lead to urinary tract infections, organ failure and death, according to the American Kennel Club.
While AKC generally recommends your dog drink about one cup of water per 10 pounds of body weight, that amount may be higher when your dog gets hot or exerts extra energy.
A dehydrated dog may seem a little off his game. His eyes may look sunken and dry, he might not want to eat and he may be visibly tired.
Other signs your dog may be dehydrated include:
- Loss of skin elasticity
- Sticky gums
- Dry nose
- Thick saliva
- Vomiting and diarrhea
If you think your dog is dehydrated, contact your vet immediately.
Don’t leave your dog in the hot seat
If your dog is anything like ours, he probably loves going for car rides. But if you must park your car on a hot day, leaving your dog unattended inside is clearly a bad idea. Yet, hundreds of pets die every year for that very reason, according to the American Veterinary Association (AVA).
So, what constitutes a hot day?
That’s the surprising part. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, even 72 degrees is too dangerous. A study they conducted found that the temperature inside a vehicle on a 72-degree day can reach 117 degrees within an hour, with 80 percent of the temperature rise occurring within the first half hour, “putting children and pets at significant risk.”
The study also determined that cracking a window does not effectively reduce the rate of heat rise or maximum temperature attained.
Bottom line, when your summer activities aren’t dog friendly, leave your canine companion at home.
If you see an unattended animal in a motor vehicle on a hot day, the AVA urges you to seek out the owner, call 911 and stay by the vehicle. It’s also likely your state has laws pertaining to this issue.
8 Cool tips when they’re feeling hot, hot, hot
Now, here are some easy ways to help your dog stay hydrated and healthy this summer:
1. Let’s go H2O! Don’t leave the house without extra drinking water and a bowl for your four-legged friend. It's always a good idea for them to have easy access to water, and this is especially important in summer. There are many different dog water bottle options out there, and some even include a separate container for your pup to drink from.
Pro tip: Drinking salt water can be fatal for dogs. If you're heading to the beach, make sure to pack extra water. This will help prevent your dog from trying to lap up the waves when they're thirsty.
2. Ruff up your morning routine. It’s best to avoid peak sunlight hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and to limit exercise on hot and humid days. Since the sun sets later in the summer, early morning walks are the perfect time to exercise and get in some outdoor bonding time with your canine companion.
3. Be shady. If you’re heading to the beach or someplace outdoors, make sure they always have access to a shady spot where they can rest. Bring an umbrella or tent for shade coverage and a mat to protect them from the hot sand.
Pro trip: Try a self-cooling pet pad. No refrigeration needed! We like this one from Chewy.
4. Freeze right there. And give them some ice cubes. They’re a fast way to help your dog cool down and hydrate. Many dogs love eating, licking and playing with ice cubes, but just make sure to supervise them when they do. Just like with humans, there’s always a risk that they might crack or chip a tooth.
Pro tip: Try these hydrating recipes for your dog! Turns out, kids aren’t the only cuties who love pupsicles and other frosty treats. Dog boarding site Rover is helping your dog chill out this summer with eight homemade summer treats like Frozen Banana Bites and Easy Watermelon Ice Cream.
5. Make a splash. One of the easiest (and maybe the most fun) ways to help your dog cool down is to get them in water. If you have the space, get an outdoor pool for you pup. It can also double as a tub for bathing.
Pro tip: If there’s no room for a pool you can also try wetting a hand towel, bandana or t-shirt and draping it over your dog.
6. Don’t let fleas fester. Fleas are more annoying than dangerous, but they are a huge problem in summer, particularly if you live in a humid environment. We recommend checking with your vet or researching the flea populations in your area to see if summer prevention benefits your dog’s healthcare routine. Here’s more on what to do if your dog gets fleas. (link to blog)
7. Follow the Seven Second Rule. Dogs can burn their paws on pavement. According to adoption and rescue group, Pooch and Claws, when the air temperature is 77 degrees, sunny asphalt is 125 degrees (an egg fries at 131 degrees).
Established by veterinarians, the seven second rule checks to see if it’s safe for dogs to walk on a surface. Just place the back of your hand on the ground for seven seconds, and the answer will become clear.
8. Don’t forget the sunblock. Yes, dogs get sunburns too, especially if they’re short-haired or light colored. Also, just like humans, dogs can develop skin cancer from sun exposure.
To minimize their risk of sunburn, limit their sun exposure during peak hours (10 a.m. - 4 p.m.), and apply sunscreen. It’s best to use sunscreen designed for canines. We recommend consulting with your vet for their recommendations.
Do you have some cool tips for the dog days of summer?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.