Keeping Your Dog Cool During the “Dog Days” of Summer

We had the great pleasure of dog-sitting for our son and his fiancée this weekend. At 2-years old, Gibson is still a puppy who loves to play…a lot! Considering the extremely high temperatures, I was concerned about all that playing leading to heat exhaustion. After doing some research, it turns out I was right to be concerned. Dogs can absolutely experience the effects of overheating, dehydration, and even sunburn during these really hot “dog days” of summer. Since most cases go unreported, there are no formal statistics to illustrate exactly how many dogs die from heat-related causes, but estimates suggest several hundred yearly – dogs with flat faces and short noses (like Pugs), older dogs, puppies, and sick dogs being especially susceptible.

The best way to protect your dog from any unnecessary suffering is to avoid heat-related stressors in the first place. Here are some tips:

  • Keep your dog cool.
  • Keep your dog inside during the hottest part of the day.
  • Purchase a cooling bandanna, collar, or vest for your dog to wear if you must be outside.
  • Be sure your dog always has plenty of water available.
  • Never leave your dog in a parked car!
    • Did you know the temperature of a car can rise to 102o in just 10 minutes? And continue to rise to 120o in a mere ½-hour when the outside temperature is 85o?!
  •  Protect your dog from sunburn.
    • White dogs and those with thin-haired coats are most sensitive to the sun.
    • Provide shade for your dog whenever possible.
    • Use an FDA-approved, pet-safe sun block on your dog’s nose and ears, especially.
  • Be careful of your dog’s paws…their pads are very sensitive to hot surfaces.
    • They can easily burn on sidewalks, asphalt, and sand.
    • If it is too hot for your hand to touch the ground, it is too hot for their paws.

So, you’ve taken every precaution to guard against the oppressive heat, but your dog starts to exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

1. Heavy panting
2. Excessive thirst
3. Glazed eyes
4. Staggering
5. Weakness
6. Rapid heartbeat
7. Excessive drooling
8. Elevated temperature
9. Collapsing
10. Staggering walk
11. Deep red tongue

Your dog is exhibiting the classic signs of heat stress! What should you do? Well, according to the Humane Society , you should follow these steps:

1. Move your dog into a shaded or air-conditioned area.
2. Apply ice packs or cold towels to your dog’s head, neck, and chest, or run cool (not cold) water over your dog’s body.
3. Get your dog to drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes.
4. Take your dog directly to a veterinarian.

We know it is important for us to stay cool, drink plenty of water, and use sunscreen during these hot summer months…why would we ever think those things any less important for the canine members of our families? It is just as important for us to protect them from the heat and the sun…perhaps even more so because they wear their fur coats year-round.

So, Gibson, if we’re in the midst of another heat wave the next time you visit the Poconos, we are certainly going to keep you cool and play in the air-conditioning!