Follow these tips and your fur-friend will have it made in the shade!
As the dog days of summer get longer and the weather heats up, it’s important to remember to keep your dog cool and hydrated. It’s fun to take our dogs with us to the beach, out hiking, or anywhere to play outdoors—but summer can be dangerous for our fur family members. The key is to be smart about how much time you spend outside with your pet and to balance time outdoors with a cooldown period. In addition to the risk of overheating, or heat exhaustion, dogs in particular are in danger of becoming dehydrated.
In the south, like our hometown of Greenville, SC, it’s even easier for a dog to suffer heatstroke and become dehydrated quickly as the temperatures push past 90-degrees. If your dog has a more serious case of dehydration or heat exhaustion, call Ambassador Animal Hospital at (864) 271-1112 and bring him in immediately for emergency veterinary care.
Of course, prevention is always better than an emergency trip to the vet—so follow these guidelines to keep your pet safe this summer:
Arm Yourself With Information
Before the heat really sets in, you should know the signs, symptoms, and risk factors for dehydration. Even the most conscientious pet parents may find that their dog has a mild case of dehydration during the hottest summer days. Fortunately, mild dehydration can easily be treated at home by slowly introducing room-temperature water to your dog and using cool, wet towels to slowly lower body temperature. If your dog seems lethargic, and is panting heavily, she likely has mild dehydration. Another quick way to check is to do a skin elasticity test. Get used to what is normal for your pet first. On a regular day, pinch the skin at the back of your dog’s neck and gently pull it up. Notice how fast to snaps back into its original place once your release it. Each pet will have a slightly different response time. Once you get used to your pet’s normal, you can notice if the response is delayed. If the skin returns to its place slowly or forms a “tent” as it goes back into place, your dog needs to be rehydrated.
Also, pet parents who own certain breeds should be on high alert for dehydration as we head into the middle of summer. Short-nosed dog breeds, such as English Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzu’s, are at greater risk for breathing problems and respiratory distress than other breeds due to their genetic makeup. Excessive exercise, heat, and lack of hydration can all make respiratory distress more likely and quickly put your beloved fur family member into an emergency situation. If you own a short-nosed dog, be vigilant about where, when, and how often he exercises or stays outdoors during the summer.
Schedule Your Walks Around the Sun
Again, prevention is best. One of the most effective ways to avoid dehydration and overheating is to keep your dog out of the sun during the middle of the day. If you are used to taking a midday walk, or even a walk right after you get home from work, try to rework your schedule so that you walk before 9:00 am or after 7:00 pm in the summertime. You should also never walk your dog on hot asphalt during the heat of the day, as their paws aren’t meant to protect them from scorching temperatures. The same goes for playtime—fetch, dog parks, chasing each other around the yard? Try your best to make these morning or evening activities.
It’s also a good idea to shorten summer walks. If your dog needs a lot of activity and is used to a long walk, split the walk into two parts, walking in the morning and the evening. You can also supplement with more indoor activities that keep your dog engaged. Practicing your training commands, leaving frozen Kong treats or puzzle games behind when you go to work, or even spending more time petting and wrestling with your dog indoors can all keep your pet happy and protected from the heat.
Try Some Creative Hydration Options
Just like humans, dogs are about 80% water and require enough water in their daily diet in order to perform necessary functions such as regulating body temperature and metabolism, breathing properly, and ensuring proper circulation. You might be surprised by how much water your dog should be getting each day. The average dog needs about 9 oz to 17 oz of water per 10 pounds of body weight—this translates roughly to 1-2 cups of water per 10 pounds of body weight. That’s a lot!
Naturally, the amount increases in the summer and for very active dogs. Your dog doesn’t have to get all of this hydration through drinking water, though. During the summer, boost your dog’s hydration by feeding more wet food, using a liquid treat, such as a high-quality fat-free beef bone broth poured over dry food, or adding more high water content fruits and vegetables to your dog’s diet. A lot of dogs love melon, green beans, cucumbers, and celery! Avoid grapes, raisins, tomatoes, and onions. Finally, if you have a reluctant drinker or if your dog remains active even during the heat of the day, consider a water additive. Specialty electrolyte powders are inexpensive, can make dogs likely to drink more, and can help dogs retain the water they drink for longer.
Set up a Shady Spot in Your Yard
You don’t necessarily have to confine your outdoor-loving dog to your living room all day—just monitor his time outside, bring him in during the hottest hours, and make sure he has plenty of shade. If your yard doesn’t have much natural shade, you can create some shade for your fur friend by setting up a pup tent (no pun intended!) or a nice, big umbrella. Dogs are usually able to self-monitor for signs of heat exhaustion and will seek shade when the ground becomes too hot for them to lie on comfortably.
Use a Baby Pool or Water Toy
One of the most inexpensive and easy ways to keep your dog cool in the summer is a plastic baby pool in your backyard. You can typically pick up the smallest pool size for about $10. Place the pool under the umbrella you’ve set up and serve your fur friend some doggie ice cream for a fun staycation atmosphere. Sprinklers and fillable water toys are also an entertaining way to make sure your pet stays happy and hydrated in the summer.
Wipe Down Paws and Belly
We all know that dogs pant to cool down—but did you know they also sweat, just like humans? Unlike humans, however, dogs only sweat on a small percentage of their bodies, including their paws and belly. Use evaporation to your benefit! After your walk, or anytime you suspect your dog may need some extra help lowering her body temperature, give her a quick wipedown with a post-exercise wipe that contains isopropyl alcohol. The lower boiling point means that alcohol also evaporates more quickly, giving your dog a fast cooldown. As a bonus, wiping down these areas after walking or exercising can also protect your dog from summer allergies. Just don’t overdo it since alcohol can also be drying to the skin.
Use a Cooling Mat or Other Cooling Devices
There’s all kinds of gear out there to keep us cool, so it should be no surprise that people have invented doggie counterparts. Cooling vests and cooling collars are available online as well as in any pet store—these are most convenient for protecting active dogs or for times when you know you are going to have to take your dog out in the heat. Some cooling vests are even constructed to carry chilled water bottles, which lower your dog’s body temperature and give her an important job to do on your walk. Dogs are always happiest when they have something to do! Cooling mats are another fantastic option. Dogs cool from the belly up and will be able to lower their body temperature more quickly from lying on a cooling mat than being cooled down from above. For a low-tech alternative, wet a towel with cool water and place it out for your dog or simply leave your bathroom door open (with the toilet lid down!) so your dog can chill on the tile floor.
There are dozens more creative ways to protect your dog from heat stroke and dehydration this summer, from affordable backyard misting systems to a simple fan set up in front of your dog’s favorite resting spot. The important thing to remember is to provide your dog with some kind of relief from the sun and to never leave your dog in a situation where she can’t escape the heat, such as in a locked car or tied up in a yard.