The park at noon. On a blazing sidewalk with no water. At home with no A/C. Overheating can happen anywhere during the not-so-dog-friendly dog days of summer. And with sweat glands only in their feet, canines aren’t exactly well-equipped for cooling off. That’s why it’s on us humans to look out for them, but luckily there are a lot of things you can do (and buy) to help.
For starters, no one likes wearing a heavy winter coat in the summer. Help your long-haired breed lighten up with a summer grooming appointment. Start with a haircut, but if they experience “coat blow” (AKA excessive shedding), add a hand-pruning session to remove dead hair.
Hydration is key, so keep their water bowl full inside and out of the house. Carry water for walks too—if they don’t want to drink it, make like a team that just won the Super Bowl and pour it all over your dog’s neck and chest. If they’re not drinking enough, try some frozen treats, like tasty bone broth.
The rule of thumb for summer walks and playtime? If it’s too hot for you to exercise, it’s too hot for them. Use your hand to test the pavement for 5 seconds. If it’s burning, it’s not safe for paws. Take them out once the temp drops, give them lots of rest breaks and consider a cooling dog jacket for a little extra comfort. You can even turn your backyard into a doggie oasis with a kiddie pool or even just a sprinkler and garden hose.
Think about your furry roommate before you turn the air conditioning down as you leave. Houses can get steamy in the heat of the day, and a slightly higher bill is worth a happier, healthier dog. If you want to make your pet really happy, create a place for them to relax and let the air blow directly on them.
Now that we’ve covered the do’s here is the absolute biggest don’t—never leave your dog in car. Not even on a mildly warm day. Not even with the windows open. Not even just for a little bit. Cars can get hot extremely fast, with temps rising more than 30 degrees within just ten minutes.
Not matter how careful you are, it’s important to still be on the watch for heatstroke. Dogs with short snouts (like pugs), elderly dogs, obese dogs, and dogs with very thick coats (like huskies) are especially at risk. Symptoms include excessive drooling, heavy panting, redness of gums, lack of coordination, a dazed demeanor, tremors, shaking, a high temperature (over 102.5—but you’ll need to check it rectally) and skin so dehydrated that it “tents” instead of going down when you lift it from their neck. Heatstroke can be deadly, so go to the vet ASAP at the first signs of distress. Monitor your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer and try to reduce core body temperature by immersing them in cold water or spraying them with a hose. Don’t use ice water—it can be too cold and cause other issues. You can also spray the pads of their feet with alcohol to help them sweat more efficiently.