Playing in the summer sunshine with your dog is always a lot of fun, but there are a few simple precautions you should take to protect your dog from heat-related problems such as heat stroke.
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 the case for short-snouted dogs (brachycephalic breeds), who have a harder time cooling down because of their shorter nasal passages.
With this in mind, 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.
The hand technique is the best way to check a surface to se if it’s too hot.
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. Click here for more detail on this helpful hand technique.
2. Prevent Sunburn
A dog’s ear tips, bridge of their nose, around their eyes and abdomen are all sensitive areas on a dog’s skin. These areas have thinner skin and are more sensitive to the sun.
Also, if you have a thin haired dog (like a Pit Bull or Boxer) and/or a white dog, you may need to take extra precautions as they tend to get sunburned more easily. An item such as a sun shirt may help cut down on UV rays and prevent a dog from overheating or getting sunburned.
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.
If you are wondering if you should shave your dog’s fur or not, read our article “Shaving Your Dog’s Coat: Should You or Shouldn’t You?“.
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 Ticks and Fleas Away
Letting your dog run free in parks and woodlands is a lot of fun for them, but wooded areas and long grasses also tend to be home for ticks and fleas.
Regularly monitor your dog for fleas and ticks and prevent your dog from getting a parasite-related illnesses. If you find a tick, be sure to remove it safely!
Also, strongly consider topical flea and tick prevention and discuss a range of options with your veterinarian.
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 to ensure they don’t become dehydrated.
Try and prevent your dog from drinking from stagnant puddles and stagnant creek or pond water as they can contain parasites and harmful bacteria such as leptospirosis. Lepto can have serious consequences if left untreated.
Giardiasis, popularly known as beaver fever is a common infection dogs can get from contaminated water. The parasite is spread by the urine or fecal matter of infected animals (usually wild animals) contaminating the water (same as with lepto). It can causes unpleasant intestinal infections, so it is better to pack along drinking water for your dog if you plan on going on a hike or outdoor adventure.
6. Avoid Swimming In Contaminated Outdoor Waters
From toxic blue-green algae to coliform bacteria, a growing number of waterways can be dangerous for your dog to swim in thanks to pollution.
Unfortunately, numerous ponds, lakes and rivers have blooms of blue-green algae during warmer months. Only some forms of algae are toxic, but if they are, they can be lethal to your dog.
If a dog ingests the nerve toxin it will kill them within an hour. That’s why it is extremely important to monitor the water for unusual algae blooms and be alert to local advisories and warning signs. Read more about toxic blue-green algae here.
Water with high coliform counts can also cause serious gastrointestinal illnesses. Keep up-to-date on local advisories and look for posted warning notices.
Make it a habit to rinse down your dog with clean water directly after they have been swimming and give them a bath afterwards.
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 release heat is by panting and sweating through the foot pads and nose. Prevention is key, as a heat-stricken dog can die in minutes, but immediate and proper care may save his life.
Avoid vigorous exercise on hot days, keep your dog hydrated and do not leave him/her alone outside or in a warm space (e.g. a car). If you notice any of these signs in your dog or someone else’s, they may be suffering heat stroke:
- Vigorous panting
- Dark red gums
- Dry gums
- Bloody vomiting or diarrhea
- Lying down and unwilling or can’t get up
- Staggering gait
- Collapse and/or loss of consciousness
- Thick saliva
If the dog is suffering from too much heat / heat stroke:
- Immediately move the dog out of the heat
- Cool them off with a cool shower or cool water or place cool wet rags or sponge on their footpads, neck, groin and head. Do NOT use ice cold water – this can actually harm the dog further.
- Offer the dog water but don’t force him/her to drink.
- Call or visit the vet right away.
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 Staffordshire Terriers. 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!