Summer is finally here and the heat wave is on! During those “dog hot days of summer” most humans can be found relaxing by a pool sipping an ice cold drink or in the comfort of air conditioning to keep themselves from overheating. Even without the benefit of these comforts, our bodies are naturally designed to sweat to cool us down when we feel overheated. But what about your dog?
Although dogs sweat, they do it much differently than their human counterparts. Most of their perspiration comes through their paw pads. The quantity is minimal so it is not enough to make big changes in their body temperature. But what does? … Their panting and breathing! The dog’s tongue and the lining of their lungs are the primary locations where their body heat is transferred to the air. A dog’s tongue does not contain sweat glands as seems to be a popular belief. Dogs also dissipate some body heat by the expanding blood vessels in their face and ears. All three methods of cooling help keep your dog from overheating but are not enough by themselves. Below are some helpful hints that you can take to ensure your dog does not overheat, stays cool, and remains healthy during these hot summer months.
- Avoid excessive play on hot days. Avoid bringing your dog to the dog park in the middle of the day when it is hot. A trip to the dog park will have your dog’s tail wagging, but the heat might make it droop quickly.
- Walk your dog early in the morning or at night when the sun is down. Since these are the cooler parts of the day, this will make the walk more comfortable for both you and your dog. I'm a believer in vigorous exercise for healthy dogs, but this is the time of year to back off on exercise intensity.
- Provide fresh cool water to keep your dog well hydrated. Carry a bottle of water when going on a walk with your dog. Better yet, have your dog carry it for you in a backpack or a vest! The water in the bottles will keep the dog cooler and also give the dog a sense of purpose.
- Be mindful of certain breeds and conditions. If your pet is brachycephalic — or has a flat-shaped face — like Pugs, English Bulldogs, Pekingese, and Boston Terriers, they cannot pant as effectively and are more susceptible to heat stroke. Be especially careful with breeds like these in hot weather and keep plenty of water on hand. Different dogs have different needs when battling the heat. Keep in mind that darker coats absorb more heat than lighter coats. Also, overweight dogs are at higher risk for dehydration.
- NEVER leave your dog in the car without AC. The car retains more heat than an open area, even if it is in the shade. Plus, a dog may get overexcited in the car due to passersby or panic from claustrophobia, making dehydration more likely. On longer trips, make sure you have water for the dog and keep the AC running.
- If your dog does become overheated, contact your veterinarian immediately. Heat stroke is an emergency and requires immediate treatment. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever of 104-110 degrees, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizures, and unconsciousness. Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to their paws, head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes and take them directly to the veterinarian. Remember to call your veterinarian before to let them know you are on your way so they are fully prepared when you arrive.
The best activity you can do in summertime or hot weather is swimming. Instead of walking the dog, take the dog on a swim!
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