Doggy Tans Aren’t Cool!July 16, 2019
Summer is fun, but it can also be a dangerous time for your beloved pupper. Dogs have a hard time regulating their temperature, which is why it’s up to us to keep them cool.
Keep Your Dog Hydrated
First and foremost, keeping your dog well hydrated is one of the most important things you can do during the summertime. Always make sure your dog has access to fresh and clean drinking water. If you are out and about with them, carry plenty of water in a travel bottle. If you forget the water bowl but have a poo bag, you can pour some water into this and supervise your dog drinking from the bag.
Signs of dehydration include loss of appetite, lethargy, excessive panting, dry nose and gums, and loss of skin elasticity. Try lifting your dog’s skin around its neck area to test for dehydration. If the skin holds upright rather than springing back down, this could be a sign of dehydration. To increase hydration in pets that are not big drinkers, you may want to consider feeding your pet wet food or mixing in some liquid with their dry food.
Try to Limit Any Dog Walks to Dawn, Dusk or After Dark
Try to avoid long walks or visits to the park during the hottest hours of the day. If you normally have an afternoon walk with your dog, try and change your schedule to accommodate getting them out first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening when temperatures will be a lot cooler. If your only availability is during these hours, it is best to walk them in the woods where they are not in direct sunlight.
Be Extra Vigilant with Breeds That Overheat More Easily
Whilst any dog can overheat in hot weather, there are some breeds that are much more sensitive to changes in temperature. The flat faced, brachycephalic breeds like Pugs, French Bulldogs and Boston Terriers find hot weather extra challenging due to the construction of their faces. Breathing is more difficult for them compared to other breeds, and therefore, they have a harder time cooling down.
Never Shave Down a Double Coated Breed
Don’t make the mistake of shaving down your double coated breed such as Huskies, Golden Retrievers or Newfoundlanders. Breeds like Huskies have a short, fine, soft and light undercoat. This undercoat is the one that causes them to shed. It is also the part of the coat that insulates their bodies in cold weather and cools them down when it gets hot. The topcoat is thicker and coarser and is referred to as ‘guard hair’. This coat protects them from the heat and ensures that they do not suffer from sunburns.
Use Cool Coats, Bandanas and Mats
Keep your pets cool on long walks, road trips or on a hot day with cooling devices. Cool coats and bandanas are typically made of a material that absorbs and holds water well to retain a cool temperature.
Plop Them in the Pool
If you don’t have a pool at home, you may want to purchase a paddling pool for your pooch to enjoy. Using a paddling pool can be a nice way to help your dog stay cool if you are giving them access to the garden. If your dog is not sure at first, throw in some toys or treats. Never force your dog to go in if they are uncomfortable, you will only make them more scared and less likely to use the pool.
If you are lucky enough to have a large body of water in your backyard, note that you should always supervise your dog. If you have a pond at home, make sure it is free from any blue-green algae as this organism can be extremely dangerous if ingested.
Your Dog Can Get Sunburnt Too
Dogs can get sunburnt too! Thin coated white dogs such as Chinese Crested, White Bull Terriers, and those with exposed skin are most at risk. If they are in the sun for prolonged periods, you can apply doggy safe sunscreen to the exposed area or cover their skin with a light t-shirt. Don’t use human sunscreen as it can often contain chemicals that may irritate your dog’s skin. Areas on all dogs that tend to be more at risk of sunburns are the tips of the ears, the bridge of the nose and the tummy. If your dog does get sunburnt, applying cold compresses on the affected areas every half an hour can help to relieve the discomfort.
Some people wonder if their dogs need to wear sunglasses. Unlike humans, dogs do not need to worry about the long-term damage that UV exposure can have, as they have a much shorter lifespan.
Protect Dog Paws from Hot Roads
In extreme temperatures, pavement and road surfaces can become dangerously hot. Take the time to place the back of your hand on the road surface for ten seconds in these hot temperatures and you will quickly notice how unbearable it can be. Dogs can end up with nasty burns on their pads if not protected. It is particularly problematic for breeds that don’t have a lot of fur covering their paws such as Greyhounds and Whippets. Avoid pavements and try walking your dog on the grass or during cooler hours.
NEVER Leave a Dog in a Stationary Car in Hot Weather
Never leave your dog unattended in a stationary vehicle. A five-minute stop at the grocery store can quickly become an emergency. Even with windows opened, temperatures can soar in a matter of minutes in a car parked in direct sunlight.
Dogs lack the ability to regulate their temperature which is why they can overheat very quickly. Be aware that even when you are driving, the temperature in your car may not be suitable for your dog. Use the air conditioner when possible, if not, keep the windows opened halfway.
Use Frozen Treat Toys to Help Keep Them Cool
Stuffing a treat toy and then freezing it before giving it to your dog can be a great way to help keep them cooler on a hot day. Small ice cubes or stuffed Kong’s are great options as well.
Watch Your Dog’s Weight
Making sure your dog maintains a healthy weight is not only important for their health, but also for preventing overheating. Overweight dogs are more likely to overheat in a shorter period than dogs with an optimal weight.
Be Aware of the Impact of Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
Overweight dogs, puppies, elderly dogs and dogs with pre-existing medical conditions are more susceptible to overheating. If your dog has a breathing condition, a heart problem, lung disease or is already unwell with a fever- then you need to take extra care not to expose your dog to extreme temperatures as you are putting them at greater risk.
What to Do If You Suspect Your Dog Is Suffering from Heat Stroke
If you think your dog is suffering from heat stroke, it is extremely important for them to receive medical attention as soon as possible. Serious heat stroke can cause internal organ damage and even death.
The signs to look for include:
- excessive panting or breathing problems
- fatigue, wobbliness, confusion or disorientation
- tongue and gums become a very bright red
- elevated heart rate
- excessive thirst
- vomiting and diarrhea
- in extreme cases, they may collapse, have muscle tremors or even seizures
Make sure that you immediately reduce your dog’s temperature by applying cool/tepid water and fanning them. Never use ice cold water as this constricts the blood vessels and can also cause shivering which will raise your dog’s temperature. Bring your dog to an emergency vet clinic if there is no quick improvement or if the symptoms are severe.