The dog days of summer are here! For many of us, that means it is time to hit the road and explore the great outdoors with our dogs, and for others that means spending relaxing days at home with man’s best friend. No matter how you plan to spend your summer, it’s important to be prepared for extreme heat and high humidity, as these can wreak havoc on your dogs health.
Keep reading for tips and tricks on how to keep your dog cool, comfortable, and hydrated no matter what the heat index may be.
On the Go
When traveling and hiking with your dog, make sure that you pack for every situation. Whenever you head out with your dog, an extra leash, a collapsible bowl, plenty of fresh water, and several poop bags are essential. It is also a great idea to carry a canine first aid kit with you in case of emergency.
In the warm summer months, you will need to make additional considerations. Many dogs need to drink additional amounts of water in order to stay cool in the summer. Try to walk with them in the coolest times of the day, such as the early morning hours and after dusk; if at all possible, walk in the shade. Keep your dogs on grass and off of the pavements and sidewalks, since they can burn the sensitive pads of their feet. A great way to check the heat of the pavement is to touch it with the back of your hand for 30 seconds; if it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog. You can also consider using Musher’s Secret paw wax, which is a blend of 100% pure natural waxes that protect your dog from sand, hot pavement, and other rough terrain.
Because dogs are unable to sweat, many of them benefit from a cooling vest or a cooling bandana, which mimics the cooling action of sweating. After you have soaked your garment of choice with water, simply attach it to your dog to allow them to enjoy the effects of evaporative cooling. For dogs that work or play hard in the heat, the Ruffwear Jet Stream Cooling Dog Vest can keep up with them. Its zippered closure means that it stays put throughout your hike.
If you have a playful dog, make sure that you are not pushing them beyond their limits. Allow for ample amounts of rest time, even if they don’t think that they need it. It’s up to us to keep our dogs feeling their best. For some fun in the sun, consider a cooling toy, like the All for Paws Chill Out Ice Ball Dog Toy, that you can pop right into the freezer for hours of chilly play time for your dog.
Home, Sweet Home
Most dogs spend many hours at home, so it is important to do your part to keep your dog cool in your house. With proper planning and the right equipment, keeping your house or apartment at a comfortable temperature for your canine isn’t too difficult. Utilize fans to keep the air moving throughout the space, and in cases of high humidity or a heat wave, it makes sense to use an air conditioner.
Chances are, if you are uncomfortable in your home, your dog is too. Keep the shades drawn so that they can find a shady place to lay. If your dog has a hard time staying comfortable in the heat, consider a cooling mat, like the All for Paws Always Cool Dog Mat. These innovative mats are activated by pressure, like your dog standing or laying on them, and will be about 10 degrees cooler than the ambient temperature. Once your dog figures out how his cooling mat works, it will be his favorite spot in the house!
Keeping your dog hydrated is important no matter what season it is, but is critical during heat waves. When traveling or hiking with your dog, water and a travel bowl should be at the top of your list. By bringing water from home or traveling with a bottle of spring water, this ensures that you have quality water available for your dog at all times. A travel bowl, like the ultra lightweight Ruffwear Trail Runner Bowl, folds up and easily fits into a pocket or a backpack so that you always have a drinking vessel on hand.
It may seem convenient to let your dog drink out of puddles, lakes, and streams on your hike. We caution against this. When dogs drink water that is contaminated with the feces of wild and/or domestic animals, they can contract giardia. This parasite attacks the dog’s digestive tract and may result in diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, or inappetence.
Your dog can, however, also have too much of a good thing. Occasionally, hot or distressed dogs can gulp down large amounts of water, which results in water intoxication. This is also seen in dogs that love to play in the water for extended periods of time and end up ingesting large quantities of water. Hyponatremia, when the water and electrolyte balance is thrown out of balance, is often fatal in dogs. In order to avoid this, offer overheating dogs water slowly and in small quantities to ensure that they sip it. If your dog loves to swim or fetch water toys, make sure that they take frequent breaks and do not spend too much time in the water.
Along for the Ride
Dogs make amazing co-pilots, so it is understandable that you would want to bring your best friend with you on errands. In hot weather, however, it is best to leave Fido at home, especially if you will need to leave him unattended in the car for any length of time. In extreme heat, it only takes a few minutes for the car to reach fatal temperatures.i
What should you do if you see an overheating dog left in a car on a hot day? It’s important to take swift action. If the car is parked in front of a store or business, head inside and ask that they page the owner of the car to let them know that the dog is in distress. Cell phones are an indispensable tool in this situation; first take a photo of the car’s license plate and then a photo of the dog in distress. If you are unable to get in touch with the driver, place a phone call to the local police station, and they can guide you through your next steps. Stay with the dog until they arrive and you can know that the dog is safe. In many states, it is now legal to break the car’s windows in the event of an emergency at the direction of the police once they have been notified. Please make sure that the dog is in fact feeling the effects of the heat before you take drastic measures; some remote start technologies now allow dogs to be sitting comfortably in an air conditioned car while their owners run a quick errand.
Sometimes, despite our best intentions, our dogs can begin to overheat. Knowing the signs of canine distress allows you to work quickly once you recognize what is happening. Dogs that are beginning to suffer from heat exhaustion may exhibit excessive panting and an increased respiratory rate, restlessness, excessive salivation, increased heart rate, diarrhea, and vomiting. It is important to realize that your dog may only display one or two of these symptoms, but could still be at risk for heat related complications.
As your dog’s internal temperature continues to increase, heat stroke can occur. The symptoms increase in severity, including muscle weakness, gasping for breathe, staggering, seizures, cyanosis (purple or blue gums), coma, and even death.
If your dog begins to exhibit any of these symptoms, you need to take immediate action to cool them down. Immediately dose your dog in cool water (not extremely cold water which may cause your canine companion to go into shock), focusing on the areas with less hair such as the feet, under the armpits, and the groin area. Seek veterinary attention immediately, use towels soaked in cool water or a cooling vest, like the Hurtta Cooling Vest for Dogs, to lower your dog’s temperature as you transport them.
Bracocephallic (short nose) dogs such as French Bulldogs and Pugs are particularly vulnerable to succumbing to the heat. If you own one of these breeds, make sure that you are on high alert while monitoring them for symptoms of heat distress.
Additional education like learning canine CPR and canine first aid can ensure that you are ready to spring into action in the event of an emergency. Check with your local Humane Society or Red Cross Chapter to see if they are running any classes. When it comes to the safety and wellbeing of your dog, being prepared is essential.
At The Cheshire Horse, many members of our experienced sales team are proud dog owners. If you have any questions about keeping your dog cool and comfortable this summer or would like personalized products recommendations, we invite you to reach out to us. We love talking about dogs and ways to help them thrive.