Dogs and the summer heat
The summer months are already here and with rising temperatures and sunny days ahead, it’s time to find out how your dog can stay healthy and safe while enjoying the sun. The reason why the hot season can be tricky for dogs is that they don’t sweat like we do, but pant instead. This way of regulating their body temperature is quite inefficient and also makes them lose up to one litre of water per hour. As a consequence, dogs have a harder time cooling off when they’re hot and can suffer from heat stroke much quicker than humans. By following a few basic guidelines and with the help of some handy gadgets you can make the summer days more comfortable for your dog while simultaneously protecting their health.
Dogs and parked cars
Let’s get the serious bit out the way first: dogs in parked cars. The news coverage every summer about dogs suffering from heat stroke because they were left in a car shows that people still don’t understand how dangerous this can be. Studies have found that with outdoor temperatures in the thirties, the temperature inside a car rises by 7°C within the first ten minutes and by 16°C within half an hour. Even fifteen minutes inside a hot car can get really dangerous for dogs, as they have no chance of cooling off quick enough to counteract the rising heat. Their body temperature will reach critical levels and a heat stroke will be the consequence. When spotted too late, heat stroke can cause organ damage or end fatally. There is one simple rule to prevent this from happening: Just don’t leave your dog in the car.
No matter how briefly you plan on being gone, there are always things out of your control and it’s just not worth the risk. If you ever spot a dog that’s been left in a car, try to find the owner immediately. If you can’t, don’t hesitate to call the police or animal control and have them free the dog from the car.
Keeping cool one day at a time
Now onto some less scary topics. As already mentioned above, dogs can lose a lot of water throughout the day so the most important thing is to make sure that they always have access to fresh water. Your daily walks should be scheduled in the early morning or in the evening to avoid the midday sun and hot pavement that can burn your dog’s paws if they walk on it for too long. If going out during the day can’t be avoided, pick a route with lots of shade and consider investing in a pair (or is it two pairs?) of dog shoes to protect their paws.
Everyone knows the feeling of not even wanting to move off the sofa on a hot day and the same can be true for your dog. Sometimes they will benefit more from being left at home where it’s cool instead of accompanying you on whatever adventure you have planned for the day. If you do want to take your dog with you consider investing in a cooling vest. These vests are a kind of harness that you can wet in cold water and put on your dog to keep them cool. They work through evaporation and can last up to a couple of hours if the material has multiple layers. If you have a senior dog or a dog with respiratory problems, observe their behaviour. If they pant heavily throughout a hot day, they might appreciate wearing a cooling vest even when just laying around outside or in the house.
Make sure to provide your dog with a cool place to rest and relax in. Lay down a blanket in the shade or make up a nice spot inside. To get through those days where temperatures inside and outside just won’t stop rising, a cooling mat can be a great asset in helping your dog cool down. There are different models available, some are filled with water and put in the fridge, others have a gel inside that will cool once pressure is applied to it. When using a cooling mat, no matter inside, outside or on car journeys, make sure that your dog can choose whether they want to lay down on it or not, providing enough space that is not covered by the mat. They should be able to get off the mat whenever they want to. As with the cooling vest, having the cooling mat available throughout the day can be a great relief for dogs with health problems or dogs that have a harder time breathing.
To protect your dog from sunburn, put sunscreen on areas that are only thinly covered in fur, like the tips of your dog’s ears, the area around their nose, their inner thighs or belly. Look into products that are specifically made for dogs to make sure that they are safe for them.
Add some fun to a hot day
And now, onto the really entertaining stuff. Ice cream for dogs is a thing. Pupsicles, as the internet calls them, are cold treats for your dog to enjoy on a hot day. There are a lot of different recipes online that are quick and easy to make and watching your dog eat them is a fun activity in itself. You can also put your dog’s toys in the freezer for a bit, so they have a cooling effect when your dog is chewing on them.
If your dog is a fan of splashing around in water, a trip to a lake, river, or the sea is a great way to pass a hot day. Make sure to check for dog friendly areas before you go, and bring enough water with you. If you have access to a garden, setting up a little pool for your dog also does the job. But make sure that the material is scratch and bite proof before you buy it, otherwise the fun may be very short-lived.
You can also use a regular hose or a sprinkler to spray your dog with water and watch them try to bite the jet. If you don’t know why this is entertaining, a quick trip to YouTube is highly recommended. With all of these options of cooling your dog off with water, keep in mind to acclimate them beforehand. Wet their paws and legs before you let them dive in completely, especially when your dog has already been in the sun for some time, to go easy on their cardiovascular system.
Summer is a great time to enjoy nature, laze around in the garden or the park, to go swimming and treat yourself to cold snacks. And all of these things are even more fun once you realize that you can take your dog along for the ride. Knowing how to keep them cool and protect them from the heat and the sun will give you the freedom of enjoying the sunny months together and the peace of mind that your dog is having just as much fun as you are.