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Summer Tips for Dogs: Healthy and Safe Ways to Beat the Heat

Dogs often enjoy the summer season — and its many outdoor and social activities — just as much as we do. However, amidst all the fun, it’s important to remember that hot weather can also mean risks to pet safety. Some — including heatstroke, drowning, or hot cars — can even be fatal. 

It’s possible to enjoy the summer with your pup, though! With some knowledge of the risks, what to avoid, and how to help your pup stay cool, you can plan amazing activities and create special memories together, all with your dog’s safety in mind.

Here are some summer tips for pets to help everyone enjoy the season safely.

Avoid Very High Temperatures and Excessive Physical Activity

Keep your pet indoors during the hottest part of the day. Plan walks and outdoor activities during cooler early mornings and evenings. And, on very hot days, keep your pup inside as much as possible — opt for short, 5-minute walks to avoid overheating.

Additionally, make sure to avoid strenuous exercise on hot days, especially if humidity is also high. Sometimes, dogs have so much fun that they don’t realize they’re getting overheated until it’s too late. But we, as their guardians, can help prevent this by encouraging them to take rests and cool down.

Consider Your Dog’s Individual Heat Tolerance

Dogs with shorter noses (like Pugs and Bulldogs) tend to be much less adaptable to hot temperatures than many other breeds, and therefore their summer activities may need to be limited to indoor ones. 

Young puppies, older seniors, overweight pets, or dogs with health problems might also have trouble tolerating the heat.

If you’re not sure what’s best for your dog, ask your veterinarian

Help Your Dog Keep Cool and Hydrated

Dogs can’t sweat like humans can. Therefore, their body’s “cooling system” isn’t always as efficient as ours. They rely more on external factors to help bring down their body temperature.

This includes finding a nice, cool, shady spot to relax when needed and drinking plenty of water. Other fun ways to cool down your pup include turning on the sprinklers, wading in a kiddie pool, or offering them a “pupsicle” (find recipes online). Ideally, they’d also have access to an indoor, air conditioned environment, too.

Even these things might not always be enough, though — so be sure to monitor your dog and keep their safety in mind when out in the summer heat.

Know the Signs of a Dog Overheating (and Developing Potentially Fatal Heatstroke) 

Some symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke include tiredness or lethargy, excessive panting, heavy drooling, difficulty breathing, a fast heart rate, difficulty walking or incoordination, unresponsiveness, vomiting or diarrhea, seizures, a bright red tongue, or collapse.

If you notice that your dog may be overheating, bring them to a cooler area immediately. Place them in front of a fan for air flow, and run cool water over them, or use cool packs or cool, wet towels. It’s important to make sure these things are cool and not very cold, since cold water can restrict blood flow and make cooling take longer. 

If you’re not sure whether your dog is suffering from heatstroke, call your veterinarian or bring them to the vet to be checked right away. Heatstroke can be fatal, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Think About Sunburn and Dog-Safe Sunscreen

Sun exposure can result in sunburn, skin irritation, or even certain kinds of skin cancer. Sunburn might show up as redness or crusty lesions on the skin.

Fortunately, dog-safe sunscreens (products specifically designed for dogs) are available, which can be applied to parts of the body that are most prone to sun damage. Common sites include the ear flaps, bridge of the nose, and belly — spots where there’s not much fur coverage. 

The most commonly affected dogs have thin and/or light-colored fur.

Remember, the Ground is Hot, Too!

Streets, sidewalks, and other surfaces can get incredibly hot on summer days. Sometimes, this can result in painful burns on a dog’s paw pads. 

To prevent this, try to schedule your pup’s walks or other outdoor activities in the mornings or evenings, when everything outside is cooler. Look for grassy areas or natural trails for walking. Or, consider purchasing “dog booties” or paw balm to protect your pooch’s paws.

Say “No” to Hot Cars

The CDC reports that the temperature inside a car can rise by nearly 20 degrees in 10 minutes, even with the window cracked open! 

As you can imagine, this means a car can get dangerously hot in a very short time. Since this can be fatal, several states have even made it illegal to leave a dog in a car in warm weather.

There’s never a good reason to leave a dog alone in the car on a warm day — it’s just not worth the risk.

Practice Precautions Near Water

If your pup loves to swim — or if they’ll be near water where they could potentially fall in — it’s important to take precautions. This includes swimming pools, as well as natural bodies of water like lakes, rivers, ponds, and the beach.

Here are a few swimming safety tips for pets:

  • Never leave a dog unattended in the water (or near the water where they could fall in when no one’s around). Even good swimmers can suddenly get tired, get caught in a current, or need help getting out of a pool — any of which can put them at risk of drowning.
  • Not all dogs are natural swimmers. Don’t force your pup if they’re not interested.
  • Use a doggy life vest. High visibility vests are great for lakes, etc.
  • Practice special precautions at the beach, including checking that dogs are allowed, providing shade, and protecting your dog’s paws from hot sand.
  • Don’t let your dog drink too much salt water or chlorinated water, both of which can make them sick. Keep plenty of fresh water available for them to drink. Also, rinse their fur after a swim.

Don’t Let Pests and Parasites Spoil the Summer

Creepy crawlies like fleas, ticks, and other parasites enjoy warm weather, too — or at least, they can thrive and reproduce quickly during hotter times of the year. Although parasite risks exist year-round in most climates, many locales experience a surge as the weather warms up.

Parasites can cause scratching, allergic reactions, or even contracting infectious diseases. Some parasites can affect humans, too.

Make sure your dog is up to date on their flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medications. Ask your vet for their recommendation, based on your pup’s needs and the parasite risks in your area.

FAQs

How hot is too hot for dogs?

Temperatures over 70 degrees are often considered the point at which overheating becomes more of a risk. However, individual dogs may have different tolerances based on their breed, overall health, how long they’re outside, how active they’re being, and other factors—so it’s not possible to give the same answer for all dogs. But if it feels hot outside to you, you can be certain it feels hot to your dog, too.

How can I keep my dog cool at night?

A temperature-controlled environment (air conditioning) is best in warm weather. Your pup might appreciate having a dog bed near an a/c vent if they tend to feel hot. Fans that circulate the air can also help. If you don’t have a/c, leave the windows open and use fans for airflow. For dogs that need more, consider cooling matts. And, always keep drinking water available.

What is the fastest way to cool down a dog?

Bring them to a cooler area (air conditioning or at least shade with good airflow) immediately. Use cool (not cold) water, cool packs, or cool, wet towels on their skin. Offer water but don’t force them to drink it. Seek veterinary care right away if your dog is showing signs of overheating or heatstroke.

Enjoy the Summertime with Your Furry Best Friend!

Summertime is great for creating new, cherished memories. While the warm weather does carry some risks, there’s no need to be scared or avoid the fun times with your dog. Knowledge and planning — and always using your best judgment to assess any new situation — will help you avoid many potential issues, so you and your furry BFF can safely maximize your summer fun!

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