The summer can be a great time to play in the sun, and pets love this just as much as their human families do. But as the humidity and temperatures continue to rise, how do we know when our dogs have had enough? The reality is, we can’t help but look at our pets and their thick beautiful coats and wonder if they are feeling the heat even more than we are. It’s hard not to look at all that fur like a fur coat, and we’d not want to wear that in July!
"As we move further and further into the hottest days of summer, many of us dog parents start to worry and wonder, ‘How can I keep my dog cool with all that coat!?' asks Summit Earhart, head dog trainer at Furry Friends in Jupiter, Florida. That's why we put together important tips and tricks to keep your dog from overheating in the hot summer months:
Appearances don’t tell the whole story. And in this case, that’s actually a good thing. One of the first things that owners may think is, "I will just shave that big coat off and the problem will be solved." Which isn't true. “Unless your dog has a coat made of hair, and not fur, it is not recommended to shave them down,” says Earhart.
Think of dogs’ coats as you would the insulation in your home. It is there to keep them warm when it’s cold and cool in the heat. “It does this by insulating their skin from direct contact to outside conditions. By shaving your dog, you are taking away their ability to protect their skin from sunburn and overheating,” says Earhart.
The best way to combat your dogs from overheating under that fur coat is by regular brushing, or blowing out, of the accumulated dead undercoat, allowing for better airflow through the coat and cooling the skin, according to Earhart.
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Dogs cool themselves down by panting. “They do sweat, but only through their paw pads. With all that fur, you can help them by keeping a fan nearby, taking more frequent breaks to allow them to pant and cool down, and giving them plenty of opportunities to rest in the shade,” says Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, Companion Animal Veterinarian with vippuppies.com.
Another great way to keep cool and exercised this summer is by swimming! “Swimming, and water sports in general, have amazing benefits for our pooches, especially as the temperatures rise,” says Earhart. Swimming offers a way to cool down while giving your pup a full-body, no impact, workout! Swimming is also beneficial in helping blow out some of that harmful dead undercoat. So, throw on a doggy life vest and jump in!
If your dog isn’t such a fan of water, that doesn’t mean they have to stay inside. “Making pupsicles out of dog safe ingredients, such as water, broth, and/or cut up fruits and veggies is a fun way to keep your dog cool and busy!” says Earhart.
Cats and dogs can get sunburned too, especially if he/she has light-colored hair. “Animal sunburns can cause the same problems as that of humans: peeling, redness and even cancer,” says Camp Bow Wow’s pet behaviorist, training manager and pet expert Erin Askeland, CBCC-KA. As skin cancer in pets is a serious concern, purchasing pet-friendly sunscreen can go a long way in protecting the health of your pet when the heat kicks in. “Places that are easy to forget, but prone to burning are: inside the nostrils, tip of nose, around your dog’s lips and the inside of ears for dogs with standup ears,” says Askeland.
Give your dog extra water during the summer, but be sure not to leave the water out for too long. “Change the water often to prevent your pet from getting sick from bacteria that can grow in hot water,” says Askeland.
Also, when dogs are thirsty, they are bound to drink something they shouldn't. “Puddles of what may look like water on the ground can actually be dangerous chemicals, so keep an eye out when your dog is looking for something to sip,” says Askeland.
You can also keep your pets from overheating by knowing their limit. “Some breeds are more prone to overheating after only a few minutes of exercise in the warmer weather, such as flat-faced breeds like pugs or French Bulldogs,” says Venkat.
Other dogs, like Belgian Malinois or Border Collies, have higher stamina and heat tolerance and can likely spend longer outside than the average breed. However: “Realize that some dogs will keep playing fetch or continue hiking because they love to do it,” says Venkat. You will need to keep them from overheating by recognizing when it’s time to stop your outdoor activities. “The best rule of thumb is to decrease your normal time spent by at least half,” says Venkat. So if you normally play fetch for a half hour, cut that down to only 10-15 minutes during the summer.
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You can also prevent your dog from overheating by switching up your activities or timeframe. “Do you usually jog with your pup at noon every day?” says Venkat. “When it’s warmer out, try jogging early in the morning when it is cooler.” Or better yet, engage your dog with fun water activities instead which can automatically keep them cooler.
A big concern in the summer heat is a hot car. “Heat stroke is deadly and can happen so fast!” says Dr. Aletha Carson, DVM from Whistle, a pet fitness and health tracker. “Don’t ever leave your dog in the car unattended when it’s not running. If you ever need to quickly leave them, make sure the AC stays on and windows are cracked for fresh air,” says Carson.
While we are talking about safety, one consideration this summer should be the temperature of the ground that we are allowing our dogs to walk on. “Be cognizant that sometimes ground temperatures can be 50-60 degrees hotter than the air temperatures!” says Earhart. Avoiding ground sitting in direct sunlight is always a must.
Look out for that hot asphalt! “Blistered paws can occur when the pavement is too hot,” says Carson. Not sure how you can tell? Press your open palm on the ground. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for them.
Most importantly, recognize the signs that your dog might be overheating, especially before it gets too bad. “Too much overheating can lead to heat stroke, which results in serious illness, including death,” says Venkat. So equip yourself with all the tools you’ll need to keep your pup safe. If you think your dog may be suffering from heat stroke, cover your dog in a cool (not ice cold) wet blanket and visit a veterinarian right away.