Playing in the summer sunshine with your dog is great fun, but there are a few simple precautions you can take to keep your dogs cool in the heat and protect them from heat-related problems.
By understanding how your dog copes with the warm temperatures and planning ahead you can avoid potentially dangerous situations.
How dogs cool off
Dogs cool down and regulate their body temperature by panting and sweating through their paws and nose. As a dog breathes in, air travels through their nasal passage and is cooled before it reaches the lungs.
When temperatures become warmer and more humid, a dog has a harder time cooling down. Your dog’s heart and lungs work harder as your dog breathes in and out quicker to reduce their body temperature. This is especially true in short-snouted dogs, who have a harder time cooling down because of their shorter nasal passages.
Here are a few safety tips when taking your dog out in warm weather.
1. Stay off Hot Pavement
One major thing that many dog owners overlook when it's sunny out is their dog's feet. Paw pads can be easily burned by hot pavement. Summer heat warms pavements just like a frying pan and if the pavement gets too hot it can burn your dog’s paws. Sand can also get very hot, so use the hand technique to check sandy surfaces too.
Press the back of your hand against the asphalt or concrete for 7 seconds to verify if it will be comfortable for your dog to walk on. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
Avoid these surfaces during the day or consider putting protective booties or paw wax on your dog’s paws as added protection.
The chart below lists temperatures in Fahrenheit:
The chart below lists temperatures in Celcius:
2. Prevent sunburn.
The ear tips, bridge of the nose, around the eyes and abdomen are all sensitive areas on a dog's skin. These areas have thinner skin and are more exposed. So, if you plan to be out in hot sun for a while, consider purchasing a sun protector or high factor waterproof sunscreen MADE FOR DOGS and whenever possible rest in the shade. Also if you have a thin haired dog and/or white dog you may need to take extra precautions as they tend to get sunburned more easily.
3. Groom shedding dogs and long-haired dogs.
Most dogs shed their coats at the beginning of summer, so daily grooming will help to remove the unwanted hair and will make your dog more comfortable. For long-haired dogs, trimming their coat may also help with keeping them cooler in the summer months. Regularly grooming your dogs fur will also give you extra time to check for ticks and fleas and to check their skin and paws are in good shape.
4. Keep away ticks and fleas.
Being outdoors is great, but wooded areas and long grasses also tend to be home for ticks and fleas. Read our articles on how to monitor and remove fleas and how to remove ticks safely and prevent your dog from getting a parasite-related disease.
5. Stay Hydrated.
Pack extra water for your dog on any excursion and make sure your dog's water bowl is always filled and close by.
6. Avoid water with blue-green algae.
Unfortunately, a growning number of ponds, lakes and rivers have blooms of blue-green algae during warmer months. It's important to monitor waterways for unusual algae blooms and be alert to local advisories and warning signs around waterways. Read more about the dangers of blue-green algae and how to keep your dog safe here.
7. Recognize the signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke.
Dogs can succumb to heat stroke very quickly in warm and humid weather because the only way dogs releases heat is by panting and sweating through the foot pads and nose. Prevention is key. Avoid vigorous exercise on hot days, keep your dog hydrated and do not leave him/her alone outside or in a warm space (eg car). That said, if you notice any of these signs in your dog or someone else's, they may be suffering heat stroke:
If the dog is suffering heat stroke:
For more detail on identifying and treating heatstroke read our article here.
Note: Certain types of dogs are more sensitive to heat especially elderly dogs, overweight dogs and brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds, like Pugs, Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Boxers and even Staffies. Take extreme precautions with these breeds during summer.
By taking a few simple precautions, you will help protect your dog and you will both have a lot more fun in the summer!
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