The summer heat affects humans and animals alike, but for canines the summertime can be particularly difficult due to a dog’s lack of the significant mechanism by which humans dissipate heat: perspiration or sweating.
Dogs have less sophisticated sweat glands, limited primarily to their paws and nose, leaving them dependent on other modalities to thermoregulate. For those not familiar with the term, thermoregulation describes the mechanism by which mammals regulate their internal temperature when external temperatures vary. Because their ability to perspire is so limited, dogs depend on panting to keep their cool. Unfortunately, they cannot pour a glass of ice water, turn on the fan, or take off their fur coats.
Here are a few ways you can help your dog beat the heat and keep them cool:
- Stay indoors during the heat of the day and find activities you both can enjoy. This is an easy tactic for lazy pups who do not mind binge-watching your favorite show with you.
- If outdoors, stay in the shade, preferably with a fan, supervision, and plenty of fresh water.
- Walks, even short ones, should be limited to early morning or later in the evening. Do not forget to check the temperature of the pavement. If it is too hot to touch, it can burn your dog’s paw pads. Protective booties can come in handy for our canine hiking enthusiasts.
- If your dog enjoys water sports, purchasing a kiddie pool for the backyard– or simply playing with the garden hose– can help keep your pooch active while staying cool.
- Consider using a cooling jacket, neck gaiter, or cooling pad. These can be a great tool for the summer or even year-round, especially for some of the more heat-sensitive breeds (e.g., flat-nosed dogs).
- Healthy dogs will typically stay hydrated if provided with plenty of fresh water and kept in an environment that is not too hot. Watch for common signs of dehydration including lethargy, reduced appetite, thick saliva, and sticky, dry gums. You can increase your dog’s water intake by giving wet food as an additive to dry food, adding a few ice cubes to their water bowl, or asking your veterinarian about appropriate supplements.
- Making your dog “pupsicles” with small amounts of chicken, beef, or tuna broth (be considerate of any food allergic pets when making flavor decisions) mixed with water is a fun way to encourage hydration. Be sure to leave out the onion and garlic, both of which can be toxic to pets if ingested.
- Be vigilant about keeping your dog at a healthy weight. Like brachycephalic breeds, whose respiratory system does not allow them to disperse heat as efficiently, overweight dogs have a greater risk of overheating. Not to mention, maintaining a healthy weight for your dog promotes overall health, enabling both of you to have fun in the sun.
We hope you and your furry companion are never faced with a heat-stress event. However, it’s imperative to recognize signs when swift intervention is necessary and even potentially lifesaving.
Signs of heat stress in your pet include:
- Heavy panting
- Change in the color of tongue and gums– usually bright red or purple in advanced cases where oxygen saturation is inadequate Drooling or thickened saliva
- Weakness or reluctance to move
In the event of a heat-stress event, here are a few steps you can take to address the situation quickly:
- Immediately remove your pet from the environment into the shade, indoors or
ideally air conditioning.
- If possible, determine rectal temperature and record the reading.
- Run cool water over your pet. Don’t forget the area of the groin, paws, neck
region, and armpits. If you don’t have access to cool running water, place wet
towels onto these areas.
- Direct a fan onto your pet. This will facilitate safe, evaporative cooling.
- Transport them to the closest veterinary facility ASAP. If possible, call the clinic
on your way to let them know the situation so they can expect and prepare to
treat your pet. To find a vet near you, visit the CityDog Directory.
And, our final tip that will have tails wagging all summer long…treat your pooch with one of these delicious, drool-worthy pupcicle recipes!
Do you have a favorite way to keep Fido cool? If so, let us know in the comments below!
about the author
Dr. Genna Mize
Dr. Genna Mize is a veterinarian with the pharmacovigilance consulting and reporting department at animal health company Virbac. Prior to joining Virbac, Dr. Mize practiced as a small animal clinician and worked with a non-profit organization monitoring animals in film media. Recognizing the power and significance of the human-animal bond, Dr. Mize believes it is a privilege to be a member of a profession that betters the lives of both humans and animals. Outside of her veterinary career, Dr. Mize enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors, gastronomy, practicing yoga, and spending time with her friends and family, including B, her beloved French Bulldog sidekick.