By Wyatt Dalton
Who remembers the blistering summer we experienced last year? Some parts of Southern California reached well above 110 degrees. Heat that intense is dangerous. During heat waves like we experienced last year, we need to be intentional about taking care of ourselves and the ones we love. Of course, this includes our dogs.
Our Dog’s Unique Way of Regulating Heat
Dogs have a unique way of dealing with heat. While humans are able to cool down by producing sweat, our dogs have very few sweat glands, and most of these are located around their paw pads. So when things heat up, dogs can’t cool themselves down as efficiently as we can.
Instead, dogs rely on panting to regulate their body temperature. When a dog pants, they evaporate moisture from their tongues, nasal passages, and the lining of their lungs, and this process helps to cool them down as water vapor is carried away with their breath. Additionally, a dog’s coat can help regulate heat by insulating their skin from the sun and directing airflow to cool them down.
However, while these mechanisms can help dogs cope with heat to some extent, they are not enough. Dogs can still easily become overheated or suffer from heat stroke. So it’s important to be aware of the dangers and take precautions to keep your dog cool during the hot Southern California summers.
Risk of Dehydration
Dogs can quickly become dehydrated if they don’t have access to water, especially when they’re out and about on hot days. Always ensure you carry plenty of water for your dog during outdoor activities. Dehydration can lead to serious health issues, so keeping your dog hydrated is crucial.
Potential Paw Pad Damage
A dog’s paw pads, when directly exposed to hot pavement or asphalt, can be severely burned. If the ground is too uncomfortable for you to press your hand against for ten seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog.
Dangers of a Hot Car
Leaving a dog in a car, even for a few minutes, can be extremely dangerous. The temperature inside a car can rise quickly, even with the windows cracked. On a 75-degree day, the inside of a car can jump to 85 degrees in just five minutes and 122 degrees in an hour. This can lead to heat stroke and even death for your pet. Never leave your dog in a parked car.
Signs of Heat Stroke
Dogs can suffer from heat stroke if their internal temperature reaches 104 degrees. Signs of heat stroke in dogs include heavy panting, thick saliva, dark gums or tongue, dizziness, disorientation, collapse, and vomiting. If you suspect your dog is experiencing heat stroke, immediately take action to help them cool down. Place cool, damp cloths on their chest and paw pads, offer them cool water to drink, and seek veterinary attention.
How Do I Help My Dog Stay Cool?
Helping your dog stay cool during the hot Southern California summers is crucial for their health and well-being. There are several strategies you can employ to ensure your furry friend remains comfortable and safe in the heat.
Keep Them Inside
One of the easiest ways to keep your dog cool is to simply avoid the heat altogether. If possible, during particularly hot days, consider keeping your dog indoors in an air-conditioned environment.
One of the most enjoyable ways to help your dog cool down is to take them to a dog-friendly beach or lake, especially in the evenings when the temperatures are lower. Soaking their skin and fur in cool water is an effective way to lower their body temperature.
Frozen Treats and Toys
Because dogs cool down through panting, frozen treats can be extremely helpful. You can fill a Kong or puzzle ball with canned dog food, broth, or a homemade mixture of dog-friendly ingredients, and then freeze it. You can also try soaking a rope toy or a soft, absorbent stuffed toy in water and then freezing it.
Cooling Mats and Vests and Surfaces
Cooling mats and vests for dogs can be very effective in helping to lower your dog’s body temperature. These products are typically filled with a gel that can be refrigerated for added cooling power. Alternatively, providing a cool area of tile or concrete for your dog to lay on will do wonders for helping them keep their internal temperature down.
The hot Southern California summers can be tough on our furry friends. But by understanding how dogs handle heat and the risks of extreme heat, we can ensure their safety and well-being. Remember, your dog’s comfort and health should always be a priority, no matter the weather. They rely on us to keep them safe, comfortable, and cool—especially when summer gets intense.