Summer is the season most of us look forward to for outdoor activities, but dogs don’t do as well in hot weather as people do. Sometimes it’s kinder, and far safer, to keep your dog at home. But whatever you do and wherever you go, keep these tips in mind:
Be aware that not all dogs handle heat in the same way. Dogs build up heat as a function of volume and lose it as a function of surface area. This means that larger dogs with rounder bodies have less surface area for their size, and build up heat faster.
In addition, dogs lose heat through evaporation from their nasal passages and tongue. This means that dogs with flat faces are less able to lose heat. As a rule, the bigger the dog and the flatter the face, the more prone they are to overheating. Overweight and older dogs have an even greater risk, as do dogs with thick fur.
Fur coats can be hot. Fur provides some amount of protection from the sun, but thick fur prevents body heat from escaping and promotes overheating. It’s a myth that shaving a dog’s coat makes him hotter. Shaving it to the skin can make him vulnerable to sunburn, but cutting the fur to about one inch can help him stay cooler. If you don’t want to shave him, brush as much undercoat as you can out, and be sure no solid mats are there to trap heat and moisture.
Don’t exercise your dog when it’s warm. He wanted to run, so you took him jogging. You only noticed he was in trouble when he started to stagger, then fell. His breathing is rapid, his gums red, and he has thick, profuse saliva. He’s in full blown heat stroke, and you must act fast to save his life. See later in the article for instructions.
Unfortunately, veterinarians see far too many dogs in this situation every year, many of which succumb. Dogs overheat before people do, so even though you may be just a little warm, your dog can be lethally overheated. On warm days, exercise your dog first thing in the morning, late at night, or only where he can cool off in water. And beware of hot asphalt!
Keep your dog out of parked cars. You only meant to be gone a minute. But once in the store, you got distracted, you forgot just how hot it was outside, and by the time you came back, a crowd was around your car. This time you were lucky. A broken window, the scowls of onlookers, but your dog is alive. Next time he might not be.
Studies show that the temperature inside cars can heat to lethal temperatures within 30 minutes even if the weather outside is relatively cool. Regardless of outside air temperature, cars heat up at a similar rate – gaining 80 percent of their final temperature within 30 minutes. Cars that start at a comfortable 72 degrees F (22 degrees C), for example, soar to a deadly 117 degrees F (47 degrees C) after 60 minutes in the sun. Cracking the windows scarcely affects the temperature inside.
Nobody keeps statistics on dog deaths from being left in cars, but about 30 to 40 children die in parked cars each year. Considering that dogs aren’t allowed in most places children are, and that dogs overheat more quickly than children, it’s likely that hundreds of dogs die in closed cars every year.
Be prepared for travel emergencies. You’re driving with your dog on a hot day, enjoying the air conditioning. Suddenly the car dies. As you wait for help, the temperature is rising, and your dog is starting to get overheated. If you have water, offer some to him, and pour some over him. Next time, prepare by bringing a cooler with ice and a small car-battery-powered fan. Soak your dog and a towel in ice water, have him sit on the towel, and aim the fan at him. Air blowing over your dog’s wet skin and fur cools him just as your sweat in a breeze cools you.
Provide for comfort at home. You left your dog in the yard, but the day turned out hotter than you expected. Next time, provide for your dog’s comfort before you leave. Be sure he has a place that’s shady all day long. Buy a kiddy pool and fill it with water so he can soak in it and cool off. If possible, aim a fan at him from a sheltered place so he has a breeze. If your dog is left inside, you may need to run the air conditioning, or at least a fan. If the weather is very hot, you may need to find a way to guard against electrical outages while you’re away. Some pets have died when the electricity, and thus air conditioning, unexpectedly went off during the day.
Spring can be just as hot. Just because it’s spring (or fall) don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Many people who are aware of summer heat hazards fail to take the same precautions in spring, when their dogs may still be wearing their thick winter coats. Don’t be caught off guard!
Cooling a Hot Dog. Don’t plunge an overheated dog into ice water. This causes the peripheral blood vessels to contract, actually trapping the overheated blood at the body’s core — just where it does most harm. Instead, cool the dog slowly by placing him in cool water, or by draping him with wet towels and aiming a fan at him. Offer him plenty of cool water.
If you have a thermometer, cool him until his temperature reaches 103 degrees F (39 degrees C), then stop, as it will continue to decline. As soon as you have him cooling, race him to the veterinarian. Even if he appears to have recovered, he needs to go to the veterinarian because some delayed but deadly effects can still occur even days later.
Not All Dogs Can Swim! Although swimming is a great exercise in warm weather, make sure your dog can swim first! Some breeds, such as bulldogs, French bulldogs and Pekingese, have the swimming ability of cinderblocks. And even good swimmers can drown in backyard pools if they don’t know where the steps are to climb out.
Dogs and UV Rays. Dogs, especially light-skinned dogs, can get sunburn and melanoma. If you dog likes to sun worship, rub a sunblock on his belly and the top of his nose, the most common sites for sunburn.