The heat of the summer is in full swing, so it's time to start thinking about summer dangers for dogs, with overheating and heatstroke being the first on the list. When it gets this hot, heatstroke in dogs is a common health problem. This condition could be life threatening to your Fido.
Table of Contents
- 1. Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Health
- 2. Get a Dog Pool
- 3. Don’t Leave Your Dog Outside
- 4. Restrict Your Dog’s Exercise Outdoors
- 5. Use Cooling Vests for Dogs
- 6. Time Walking with Sunrise and Sundown
- 7. Do NOT Muzzle Your Dog
- 8. Access to Clean Water
- 9. Temperature Controlled Accommodations
- 10. Never Leave Your Dog in the Car
- 11. Buy a Cooling Mat for Dogs
- 12. Address Overheating Directly
- 13. Uncontrollable Symptoms of Overheating
- 14. Keep Sick Dogs Indoors
- 15. Always Be Aware of the Heat
- 16. Offer Your Dog Icy Treats
- 17. Use Window Shades in Your Car
- 18. Have a Backup Plan for Power Outages
- 19. Take Note of Your Dog’s Breed
- 20. Protect Your Dog's Paws
- 21. Choose Cooler Areas for Walking
- 22. Use Cooling Bandanas for Dogs
- 23. Do NOT Shave Your Dog
- 24. Avoid ALL Strenuous Exercise
While we can tolerate summer's heat, dogs may suffer when the temperatures climb up high and the air gets humid. The human body is automatically programmed to cool itself through sweating, but dogs don't have the same ability to effectively cool themselves down.
Instead, dogs pant. This allows their bodies to circulate air for a cool-down. But when the temperatures become too extreme (100° F and up), even panting cannot dissipate heat quickly enough, and the danger of heat strokes in dogs creep up. Multiple studies show that the treatment for dogs that suffer a heatstroke is complex and not always successful.
Before we get to the tips on how to prevent heat exhaustion, overheating and heat strokes in dogs, let's briefly examine this oft-overlooked and life threatening condition.
The dangers of overheating and heat stroke in dogs
More studies show that heatstroke in dogs results in serious complications and a near 50% fatality rate despite appropriate treatment. The higher the dog's temperature and the longer it takes for him to get heatstroke treatment, the worse the outcome will be.
Keep in mind the environment your dog is in. When summer temperatures get really high, everything around is hotter for the dog, like the asphalt the dog's walking on. For example, if it's 86° F degrees outside, then it becomes 135° F on asphalt.
“But even in relatively mild temperatures, burns to a pet’s pads can result if forced to walk on the hot surface,” says Dr. Raelynn Farnsworth, DVM (source)
Know How Well Your Dog Can Tolerate the Heat
Remember that some breeds (mostly short-nosed brachycephalic like Bulldogs) are at a greater risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Overweight and obese dogs are also more likely to overheat quicker. Veterinarians warn that even dogs that exercise regularly are still at the mercy of the heat and will become overheated quickly when the temperatures are simply too high for them:
“The perfect example of this is a dog who goes to the dog park on a nice, warm, spring day when they have not [been] all winter, and they play [with a] Frisbee [disk] and run more than normal,” says Dr. Stacy Eckman, DVM (source)
Heat stroke happens when the generation of heat exceeds the dog's body's ability to dissipate it. It is a very serious condition that can have terrible effects. Some of these can include:
- vascular damage
- kidney damage
- liver damage
- gastrointestinal damage
- dysfunction in the central nervous system
As with any health condition, prevention is more effective than a cure. Measures should be taken by every pet owner to ensure their dog is able to stay cool in the heat. If you suspect that your pet is overheating, you need to take measures to cool him down and potentially seek medical treatment immediately.
24 Ways to Prevent Heatstroke in Dogs
1. Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Health
Know whether your dog has a predisposing condition that could increase his risk of overheating or suffering side effects from the summer heat. These conditions include heart disease, old age, being overweight or obese, having respiratory conditions, or being a brachycephalic dog.
For example, a senior dog with heart disease can withstand no more than quick potty breaks outdoors in summer's heat. Longer periods outdoors will strain their heart and cause breathing difficulties for your older canine.
2. Get a Dog Pool
When the temperatures reach 90+ degrees in summer, nothing will cool us faster and is more pleasurable than submerging the body into cool water. But even if you don't have a pool in your backyard, fortunately for your dog, you can still get him a dog swimming pool and fill it will “liquid relief” from summer's heat.
There are plenty of swimming pools for dogs that are designed specifically to help cool off our pets and sustain the damage and scratches. Some of those dog pools are even shaped like a bone. Place it in a shade, and your dog will be forever grateful.
If a full-on swimming pool isn't an option, something like a paddling pool for dogs (similar to those you'd get for kids to play) is another good way to cool off your dog in summer; however, paddling pools are more likely to be ripped apart quicker.
3. Don’t Leave Your Dog Outside
Never leave your dog outside in the heat for any period. This is the most common cause of overheating and heatstrokes in dogs. This means that “outside dogs” should be brought inside or given temperature controlled accommodations. This also means that potty visits should be kept short and dogs should not be left outdoors to play.
For example, even in the “shade”, a dog in your backyard can quickly overheat. Your dog’s natural body temperature is around 102 degrees. As it gets warmer outside, it gets harder for your dog to lower their body temperature. Once the outdoor temperature reaches your dog’s internal temperature, there is no way for your dog to cool at all and they quickly succumb to heatstroke.
4. Restrict Your Dog’s Exercise Outdoors
When it’s hot or humid, do not push your dog’s exercise limits. It’s harder for your dog to cool down in hot and humid temperatures so they’re much more likely to overheat. Also, limit the time you exercise or play with your dog outside.
For example, your dog uses evaporation to cool down their body temperature when they pant. When the humidity is higher in the air, evaporation is much slower meaning that it takes longer for your dog to cool down. Too much exercise or play time in hot weather could result in heatstroke in dogs much quicker than you would suspect.
5. Use Cooling Vests for Dogs
The great invention that are cooling vests for dogs will allow you and your pet go outside for longer periods of time without running the risk of heat exhaustion and heat strokes.
Dog cooling vests are harnesses made specifically for dogs that provide exterior cooling. Most often these are used on working dogs that must be outdoors in any type of heat. Cooling vests are also useful for senior dogs and overweight dogs on cooler summer days.
6. Time Walking with Sunrise and Sundown
To avoid summer's heat when walking dogs, make sure to walk them before the sun comes up or after the sun goes down. This allows walking surfaces and the air to cool down sufficiently to make walking more comfortable. It's also much easier for you as you can stay outside longer as well.
Walking surfaces absorb the heat of the sun, so when the sun is at its hottest, walking surfaces absorb and maintain that heat for hours. Once the sun goes down, the ambient temperature and sun exposure have reduced enough to allow walking surfaces to cool.
7. Do NOT Muzzle Your Dog
In certain situations, muzzles for dogs are not only beneficial but can be essential. However, when the summer temperatures hit the all-time high, you must try to do whatever you can to avoid putting on a muzzle on your dog.
If your dog needs a muzzle to walk safely, seek other methods of exercise him, or use the above advice and find better times. A muzzle restricts your dog’s ability to pant and cool down, which could cause heatstroke in dogs very quickly.
Note that I’m not advising that you walk your dog without a muzzle, as this may put others in danger; I'm saying to find alternatives such as better time to walk the dog.
Also, if your dog has some type of fear aggression and needs a muzzle, consider indoor activities during summer months instead. Activities like a game of hide and seek or fetch down a long hallway can help to safely burn off excess energy and stimulate your dog.
8. Access to Clean Water
Clean cool water keeps your dog hydrated but it also helps to keep their body temperature down. Whether your dog is simply lying in the sun indoors or has just come in from potty time, make sure that you have clean cool water available.
A great way to do this is to wash and refill your dog’s water bowl a minimum of three times a day. For pet owners who don't have the time, automatic dog water fountains are the best solution, because they keep the water circulating and cold, thereby making it more appealing for your dog to drink it.
Contrary to the myth, icy water and even ice is also good for dogs and is not dangerous to them. When walking and exercising your dog in summer, hydration is particularly important to avoid heatstroke and heat exhaustion in dogs. Keep a dog water bottle with you at all times in case other water sources are unavailable.
9. Temperature Controlled Accommodations
If you do not have access to air conditioning, consider providing your dog with an in-window AC unit or at least a portable fan. There are plenty of cheap and affordable dog-friendly fans that will give your dog some relief from summer's heat.
Keeping your dog cool indoors and outdoors is important, and just because your dog is inside the home during summer months does not mean that they are cool enough. This is especially true for homes that have no AC.
For example, if your dog usually sleeps in the garage, install an air conditioning unit for them or bring them inside the main part of your air conditioned home. For dogs that sleep in their dog crates, you can get a dog crate cooling fan to provide some relief.
10. Never Leave Your Dog in the Car
This already goes without saying, but never leave your dog in your car. Whether it’s summer or winter time, leaving your dog in the car poses multiple dangers, but it's especially dangerous to leave a dog in a car when it's hot outside.
In warmer months starting in April, heatstroke in dogs can set in very quickly if your pooch is left in the car. For example, in May when it’s 70 degrees outside, it takes just 10 minutes for the temperature to reach 100 degrees in the car, EVEN with the windows cracked. Note that there are now laws making it illegal to leave dogs in cars.
On top of that, regardless of the time of the year, your dog can cause accidents just by being locked in the car. For example, leaving the engine running with your dog in the car in November while you run into the store. In just a second, your dog can nudge the gearshift, send your car rolling forward, and cause an accident.
11. Buy a Cooling Mat for Dogs
For dogs with a lot of trouble maintaining their body temperature during summer, you can invest in a cooling mat for dogs, if you've already exhausted other options. These dog cooling mats are pressure activated and provide a cool padded surface where your dog can lie, and became one of the most popular ways to provide cool relief for dogs today.
Once your dog lies down, the mat begins to cool against their exposed underbelly and helps to bring down their body temperature more rapidly. Cooling mats vary in size and price and can be very beneficial for dogs with thick coats, elderly dogs, or dogs with health conditions. They are a simple and cheap way to prevent heatstroke in dogs.
12. Address Overheating Directly
If you notice signs of heat stroke in dogs, such as any of these common ones, it’s important to address them right away before they escalate.
Here's what you do if you suspect heat exhaustion and overheating in your dog:
- Immediately bring your dog into a cool area and if possible run cool (not cold) water over their coat.
- If you cannot get your dog into the bathtub, use cool wet towels on your dog’s underside to help them cool.
- Encourage your dog to drink.
- Use fans to help circulate air and cool your dog, but do not point fans directly at a panting dog as it can cause bloating.
Signs that your dog is overheating include panting, weakness, pale gums, disorientation, or labored breathing. Keep those in mind and when it's summer, make sure you're prepared in case your dog experiences heat exhaustion.
13. Uncontrollable Symptoms of Overheating
Uncontrolled overheating is a sign that your dog needs medical intervention, do not delay. If left untreated, overheating can cause organ failure.
14. Keep Sick Dogs Indoors
If your dog is experiencing a fleeting illness like a tummy upset or even canine flu, keep them indoors. Sick dogs dehydrate very quickly and added weakness from illness can speed up the process of heatstroke.
For example, if your dog has eaten something that does not agree with their tummy, avoid your walk after sundown and do quick outdoor potty breaks instead.
15. Always Be Aware of the Heat
Many pet owners think that just because their pet is swimming, they will not suffer heatstroke in dogs. While the water can bring down your dog’s body temperature, the atmospheric temperature can still cause your dog to overheat.
For example: If your dog is in the pool during the summer, limit their swimming times to short 15-minute to 30-minute intervals and watch for signs of overheating. Just remember that there are dangers lurking for dogs around pools and water areas, so keep a close watch on them.
16. Offer Your Dog Icy Treats
During particularly hot summer days, offer your dog icy treats to help them to cool down. Some dogs enjoy ice cubes, but if your dog doesn’t I find that freezing pieces of dog-safe fruit into water in ice cube trays works just as well! If you have a particularly picky pup, try all-natural juice watered down and frozen instead.
For example, if your dog has just been outside to potty and comes back inside panting and overheated, offer them icy treats to cool down faster.
17. Use Window Shades in Your Car
If you do have to travel with your dog during summer months, put up sun shades on the windows of your car. Most often used for babies, these shades keep direct sunlight off your dog and can easily be taken down when not in use.
You can also get a dog-friendly fan for cars that will keep your dog cool in case the regular car setup doesn't work or doesn't provide enough cold for the dog.
18. Have a Backup Plan for Power Outages
If your area is prone to power outages that may cause your home to become unbearably hot for your dog, have a backup plan. For example, consider installing a generator to keep a window air conditioning unit running or stay with friends until your power returns.
19. Take Note of Your Dog’s Breed
If your dog is a brachycephalic breed – if they have a short broad muzzle – they have a more difficult time regulating their body temperature and are more prone to respiratory difficulty. These breeds are more susceptible to heatstroke in dogs.
These dogs should spend considerably short periods outdoors and should be monitored closely for any signs of overheating. Overheating for brachycephalic breeds happens very quickly, so it’s important to be vigilant.
20. Protect Your Dog's Paws
As mentioned above, summer's heat affects the environment and things like asphalt get way too hot for dogs way too quick. A rule of thumb is that the surface is often 20 F degrees hotter than the temperature outside.
The most common way to protect dog's paws are by using shoes for dogs. However, if it's too hot, other options may be used, such as socks or even paw protection waxes. If, however, it's too late and your dog has already burned his paws on hot asphalt, make sure to use paw balms to relieve the pain and speed up the healing process.
Protecting your dog's paws from hot surface will not only help prevent heatstroke in dogs but also keep your dog's feet healthy and in good condition.
21. Choose Cooler Areas for Walking
Even if you protect your dog's paws with dog booties or paw waxes, it's best to avoid hot areas and choose shade over burning sun every time.
When the temperature has cooled enough to walk your dog, try to stick to cooler areas to reduce the temperature further. For example, walk your dogs on a wooded path rather than on a sidewalk around your development.
22. Use Cooling Bandanas for Dogs
Cooling bandanas can help dogs cool down much faster by providing skin contact with a cool pad. Equipping your pet with one will greatly reduce his chances of heatstroke in dogs. These bandanas are available from most pet stores during summer time and simply require freezing before use.
The bandana wraps around your dog’s neck like a towel might and can be reused. Cooling bandanas are helpful for during walks and after walks as well as for dogs that are feeling feverish as they provide rapid, instant, cooling. You can do the same thing with shirts for dogs by placing them in icy water first.
23. Do NOT Shave Your Dog
Some dogs can benefit from a trim of their coat during summer months, but you should NEVER shave your dog’s coat completely, and we've already discussed all the reasons why shaving your dog for summer is bad.
Your dog’s coat not only keeps them warm in winter, but it also helps to regulate their temperature in summer! For example, your dog’s coat protects them from sunburn, and their undercoat helps to keep out excessive heat by insulating your dog’s body.
24. Avoid ALL Strenuous Exercise
For example, strenuous activities like running, playing fetch, or playing frisbee cause your dog’s body temperature to rise quickly. This means that only a few minutes of strenuous activity can result in overheating.
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