Check out these great tips for keeping your dog safe in the summer heat.
When the heat is on, we keep a close eye on our family pooch, Patches. Patches is a Blue Tick Heeler/Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, and to say that she loves the outdoors would be a vast understatement. Even at that, when summer settles in and the thermometer starts to spike, she usually finds a cool spot to rest her belly, stretches out and closes her eyes, and starts to pant like we just dropped her on the Sahara without an umbrella.
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Like Patches, most dogs instinctively know what to do when they feel the heat, but here are some easy steps you can take to make your pup as comfortable as possible, and insure her safety at the same time.
KEEP COOL, FRESH WATER ALWAYS AVAILABLE.
Unlike humans, almost all of a dog’s efficient sweat glands are located on the bottoms of their feet. Instead, a dog’s primary method of heat exchange herself is panting. Panting allows the moisture on her tongue to evaporate; heavy breathing also allows the moist lining of the lungs to serve as a surface from which moisture can evaporate.
The more panting occurs, the more our four-legged family members need to drink to replenish the moisture lost. This is why the most important thing you can do for your pooch when the weather starts to heat up is to keep her well watered.
On very hot days, we try to change Patches water a couple of times a day – no one likes to drink hot, stale water.
PROVIDE SHADE AND SHELTER WITH FREE AIRFLOW.
We always allow Patches access to the house on hot days, but I have to admit that letting her in and out was a pain until we installed a doggie door a few years ago. I cannot even tell you how much that one change reduced our dog-related stress!
Even if your dog is an “outside only” dog, be sure that she has a cool spot to rest at all hours, preferably under a shady tree. Note that dog houses and kennels are not good options: they hold heat and do not allow for free airflow.
PROVIDE BEDDING DESIGNED FOR HOT-WEATHER.
There are a couple of good hot-weather bedding options to help cool your dog. One great choice is a cooling gel pad, the ultimate in affordable cooling for pets. These gel-filled pads can be used stand-alone or placed on a pet’s existing bed.
If you’re yearning for that ’70’s vibe, you could go for a canine water bed (Yes, really!) These specially designed beds (which you fill yourself) have a cool core that diverts the liquid throughout for advanced cooling power. Then all you’ll need is a doggy disco ball! (Believe or not, they make those too!)
ADJUST THE INTENSITY AND DURATION OF ACTIVITY.
On very hot days, we try to limit our dog’s exercise (as well as our own) to early morning or evening hours. If you are going for a walk, keep in mind that asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible.
Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating. A water bottle and a collapsible water dish come in handy.
If you are an avid dog-walker, you might consider these awesome lightweight canine “running shoes.” Breathable and water-resistant, they will protect your pup’s paws from sizzling on that hot roadway.
For hot-weather hikers, a canine cooling vest (a lightweight vest with cold packs built into the sides) will allow your dog to stay comfortable and cool even on a long hike. If the vest is too much for your pooch (or you!), try a less obtrusive cooling collar.
The best activity you can do with your dog in hot weather is go for a swim. If your dog is an unsure swimmer, or you are planning a trip in moving water, you might want to consider getting a neoprene canine life vest. We recently bought a life vest for Patches for when we take her kayaking. It appears to be comfortable for her to wear, and it is easy for us to put on and take off; moreover, it gives her confidence in all kinds of water situations. We also like that it has a strong, built-in grab-handle for helping to guide her in and out of the kayak or the water.
There are a few things you should never do with you dog, especially in hot weather.
Don’t let the temperature fool you. Dogs can get too hot in weather as low as 80° F.
►►Signs of Dehydration and Overheating in Dogs
Don’t give your dog an extreme haircut. This may sound counter-intuitive, but a dog’s coat provides a buffer to help her regulate his body temperature. Not only will a super-close cut not help her handle the heat, but it could make her more likely to get a sunburn, too.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly…
NEVER, EVER LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A PARKED CAR!
Not even for a minute. To illustrate, when the temperature outside is 85° F, the temperature inside a car with the windows open slightly can reach 102° F in 10 minutes. (Rolling down the windows a few inches has little effect on the temperature inside your car.) After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120° F, when your trusting sidekick may suffer irreversible organ damage or die.
►►What to Do If You See a Pet in a Parked Car
Enough with the serious stuff though. There are plenty of fun ways to help your dog cool off. Here are just a few:
FUN WAYS TO COOL YOUR POOCH
Get a plastic wading pool. This time of year, you can pick up a hard plastic kiddie pool for a song just about anywhere. (Avoid the inflatable kind!) If your pooch is hesitant to jump in, you can coax her with a treat or a game. Once she gets the idea, you might have trouble keeping her out of it!
Play water games. Water games can also be a fun way to cool off your pooch. Patches likes to bite at the water stream coming out of the garden hose nozzle and chase it around the backyard. (If you use a hose, be careful to avoid faces and eyes.)
You can also set up a sprinkler with a gentle mist and let your dog play in it, or simply lay down nearby it.
Make your dog an Ice-bottle Buddy. Fill a plastic water bottle about ¾ with water and freeze it. (Leave the bottle cap slightly loose when you are freezing it so that the bottle doesn’t crack under pressure.) Once frozen, tighten the lid and slide the whole thing into an old sock and let your dog snuggle up with it.
(NOTE: Never use bare ice to help your dog cool down, as it may lower their temperature too quickly and constrict blood flow, which will actually inhibit the body from cooling.)
Offer your dog a Belly Cooler. Dogs cool from the bottom up. When you lay a wet towel down for your dog to lie on, it cools her much more effectively than laying a towel on top of her coat. A nice cool tile floor works wonders too!
To wrap it all up, if you are feeling the heat, chances are good that your pooch is feeling it too, and she is counting on you to be a good Puppy Parent, so be cool.
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