When the sun rolls in and the temperature’s mounting, there’s often nothing better than getting your dog, slipping on a lead and going outside to soak up the sun together.
Long walks, fun by the pool or chilling at a barbecue – these are all fun summer activities and great opportunities to spend quality time with your dog.
But remember, just because you’re able to withstand the heat and glare from the sun, doesn’t mean your dog can too.
Aside from the environmental risks facing your dog in these new places, the heat itself can prove bothersome for your pet and even detrimental to their health.
Serious conditions such as dehydration, heatstroke and sunburn can strike easily. Heatstroke, in particular, should be avoided as it can cause irreversible organ damage and even fatalities.
Let’s take a look at some tips to help you and your pooch survive and thrive happily in the hot weather this summer.
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As always with your dog’s health, the best way to survive the hot weather is to be prepared and to spot warning signs of any health issues quickly, before they have a chance to get serious.
Know the Signs
The number one thing to look out for in your dog during hot weather is overheating.
Heavy breathing and panting, an increased heart rate and increased salivation and drooling are all indicators of overheating, while more serious symptoms include physical weakness, a stupor and collapsing.
Severe overheating – when their body hits over 104° – can even cause seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomiting.
Overheating can prove particularly problematic in older or overweight dogs, as well as those with heart or lung disease. If your dog falls into one of these categories, take extra special care.
Sunburn is easily spotted on your dog; their skin will become red and flaky and hot to the touch. The best way to relieve the burn is to take your dog out of the sun and apply a cool compress to the affected area. Just like humans, dogs are susceptible to skin cancers and tumors so do your best to limit direct sun exposure.
Get a Check-up From the Vet
It’s likely that your dog will be spending more time outside during the summer months so make sure they’re well prepared and in great health beforehand by visiting the vet for a Spring/Summer check-up.
Get them tested for heartworm and make sure they’re on a recommended and safe program for the prevention of ticks and fleas.
They’re likely to be exposed to more creepy crawlies than normal if you’re spending more time outside walking or near water so it’s imperative they’re on a preventative course.
Get a Haircut – If Appropriate
Especially if you have a longer-haired, single coat dog, a haircut before the hot weather hits is sure to benefit them as they’ll have less insulation to carry about with them.
Perhaps surprisingly, double coated dogs such as Golden Retrievers and Labradors should not have their coats shaved. The double coat naturally works to keep them cool. Counter-intuitive maybe, but true. So please do your research before ever shaving your dog as some will be worse off if you do so.
If you do give your pooch a haircut, (if a suitable breed!) please keep in mind that shorter haired dogs are more likely to suffer from sunburn. The best length to go for is at least an inch long so there is still some hair protection against the sun’s beating rays. Make sure their hair isn’t shaved all the way down to the skin.
There are plenty of sunscreens made specifically for dogs if you are concerned about sunburn – aim for an SPF of at least 30.
Make Sure Their Environment is Right
It’s easy for dogs to suffer in hot weather whether inside or out, so make sure you’re well prepared for the heat regardless of your environment.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your dog won’t be affected by the heat just because they’re inside. Homes can become very hot during the summer, especially if you have a lot of windows or a south-facing home.
Ensure your dog is kept cool with air-conditioning or a fan and make sure they have access to plenty of water all day.
Whatever you do, don’t leave your dog locked in your car. Aside from the fact that this is illegal in several states across the US, cars can become incredibly hot in summer weather – like a sauna – even if you leave a window or two down.
Make sure that wherever you take your dog in hot weather there is plenty of shade where you can both take regular cover from the sun’s burning rays.
Again, you need to ensure they have a steady supply of fresh and clean water, and be mindful that you don’t over-exert them with training, play or exercise, otherwise they could face dehydration.
Generally, the hottest period of the day is between 11am and 2pm so try and avoid those peak hours outside, if at all possible.
When you’re walking your dog around the streets, try to choose routes that avoid walking on asphalt as much as possible.
Asphalt can get really hot under the rays of the sun and has the potential to burn sensitive paw pads and overheat your dog’s body as they are that much closer to the ground. Stick to grassy areas as much as you possibly can.
The general rule of thumb is: Place the back of your hand onto the tarmac, if you cannot hold it there for 10 seconds, it’s also too hot for your dogs paws.
When the weather becomes hot, many dog owners are tempted to take their furry friends to the nearest body of water for a pleasant, cooling swim. For this reason, there are many more accidents and deaths around water when the weather really hots up.
While many dogs love swimming, it’s not necessarily a given that your dog will and they should never be left unsupervised around water.
Introduce them to water gradually and arrange for them to wear a flotation device to give you both some peace of mind.
Before letting them into water, remove any collar they are wearing as it could get snagged on underwater objects and they’ll be unable to free themselves.
Finally, avoid any water with even the slightest of currents. Seek out still water lakes and ponds if you can, or very gentle flowing streams at the most. The last thing you want is to see your dog washed away!
What to avoid in the heat
While it’s a given that you’ll be working hard all year round to keep your dog safe, with hot weather comes a new set of challenges and potential hazards to your dog’s health and happiness.
Keep a look out for the following:
If you decide to take your dog swimming in a pool, make sure they don’t drink the pool water as it will probably contain a high level of chemicals, including chlorine, as part of its filtration system which may upset your dog’s stomach.
The only thing you can do here is to lead them to drinking water before they go for a dip, in the hope they quench their thirst before going near the pool.
You should also keep them away as far as possible from pesticides, insecticides, rodenticides and items like citronella candles, all of which can be harmful if ingested by your dog and are likely to be used by you or others while you’re out in people’s gardens during hot weather.
Flea and tick preventatives too can occasionally be harmful if ingested so make sure to keep them well out of your dog’s reach.
If you use any products on your dog like sunscreen or insect repellent, make sure they are suitable for use on dogs.
Canine skin is much more sensitive than human skin and any harsh chemicals used can cause allergic reactions and deterioration in the condition of the skin and hair.
It’s tempting when you take your dog along to a barbecue or outdoor party in the summer, to allow them to nibble away at ‘human’ food which other party-goers have dropped or have fed to your dog.
Depending on ingredients, some human foods in even small amounts can cause severe digestive problems for your dog and should be avoided as far as possible. Any treats administered for good behavior should be specifically made for dogs!
It’s worth doing some reading on the human foods that dogs can and cannot eat, so you know what to avoid and why.
It should go without saying that you should go to great lengths to avoid them drinking any alcohol which could lead to intoxication, depression and even comas.
What’s better in the hot weather than to sit out on a balcony and enjoy a cold beer?
While it’s easy and fun for us humans to let our hair down in the summer, we have to be careful that our pets don’t fall victim to any drop in safety standards.
There’s often an increase in the number of pets injured or even killed by falling from high-rise balconies, rooftops or apartment windows in the hot weather.
If you live off the ground floor, make sure that all windows and doors are kept closed and any screens and safety barriers are tightly secured so your dog is kept safe while they’re home indoors.
Fireworks are a standard feature of any Fourth of July party celebrations and although we humans love them, your dog almost certainly won’t.
Aside from scaring them with the loud, unexpected noises and blasts of unexplained light, the fireworks themselves can put your dog in real danger.
Burns from lit and even used fireworks can occur, especially if your dog is frightened by the loud bangs and scampers away for safety.
Additionally, the heavy chemical and toxic makeup of most fireworks certainly aren’t safe to be breathed in by your dog. Potentially toxic ingredients can include arsenic, heavy metals, chlorates and potassium nitrate.
Remember to leave your dog inside at home on the Fourth of July!
Video: How To Protect Your Pet From Summer Heat!
In this video from DNews.com, Tara breaks down a few useful tips to make sure that your pet is safe during hot weather!
Left to their own devices, a dog would mostly avoid the heat of summer by choosing to lay down in the shade all day and being active at night, instead of any kind of activity or physical exertion during sunlight hours.
If you to take your dog along with you to work, a party, for a walk or a hike, then it is your responsibility to make sure they stay cool, hydrated and comfortable. After all, they’re only doing anything at all because you’re leading them.
Dogs can overheat quickly but will also keep on going, and going and going – if they think that’s what you want. Be mindful of this fact, don’t ask your dog to do too much. Make sure they have a plentiful supply of water and look out for any of the other dangers listed above.
Summer is a wonderful time to be enjoyed by all and with just a little forethought and mindfulness, our 4-legged friends can enjoy it too.