As summer approaches and we hope for at least a partial return to some of our favorite outdoor activities, keeping our dogs cool once again becomes important. If you do attend an event, take your dog for a walk, or just play in your backyard, don’t forget to keep an eye on the temperature. When it begins to rise from the comfortable 70s to the scorching 100s, what can you do to keep your pup cool and safe? Here are our tips and tricks for surviving the summer heat.
Tip 1: Cool off the right parts of the body.
One of the most important things I learned from attending dog sporting events is how to properly water a dog down. Many pet owners instinctively pour water over the dog’s back or neck to cool them down—but this isn’t the best approach. The key to watering down your dog to cool him off is to target certain heat-sensitive parts of the dog.
Wet down your dog or apply cool towels under the armpits and in between the thighs, in the groin area. The fastest and most effective way to cool a pup down, it’s the reason dogs do the “froggy” pose when they lay down on cool hardwood floors or kitchen tiles.
Tip 2: Make sure water is always accessible.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! This is just as true for dogs as it is for people. When you head out, be sure to bring along a water bowl (collapsible bowls are handy for hydrating on the go) and a cooler full of water. On especially hot days, consider adding some unflavored electrolyte replacement drink (such as Pedialyte or Rebound) to your dog’s water to rehydrate more efficiently.
If your dog is like mine and doesn’t like to drink, remember that it’s your job to make sure they do. Add a little chicken broth or coconut water for taste to encourage your dog to drink. Or sprinkle an additive specially formulated for dogs, such as K-9 Go, into the water bowl to encourage more water consumption.
Tip 3: Ice cubes and frozen treats cool from the inside out.
Ice is a simple and fun way to cool off your pup, and many dogs get a real kick out of playing with an ice cube. You can also make your own frozen dog treats, or simply freeze water in a Kong toy for some good cool fun.
Tip 4: Use paw protection to safeguard against hot surfaces.
Walking outside with your shoes on, it’s easy to forget that the ground your pup is walking on with just his paw pads can get hot. Very hot! Asphalt and cement soak up the heat like a sponge, so walking on it can be painful for your dog and may cause serious burns. If your walk, hike, or playtime takes place somewhere with a lot of hard ground, it’s a good idea to invest in some booties or other forms of canine paw protection.
It may take some time and training to get your dog used to wearing something on his paws, so don’t be alarmed if he walks funny for a wee bit!
Asphalt, rocks, sand, and cement soak up the heat like a sponge, so walking on it can be painful for your dog and may cause serious burns. Consider buying boots or shoes if your dog will be exposed to hot surfaces.
Tip 5: Nab some cooling vests.
Swamp Cooler @Ruffwear»
Humans are lucky to be able to cool down by perspiring, but dogs can only cool off by panting. Help them utilize the power of evaporating water with a cooling vest. Some brands feature a reflective top layer to shield pups from the sun’s hot rays. Dogs may also feel a calming effect when wearing a cooling vest, much like when they wear an anxiety shirt or thunder vest.
Tip 6: Provide shade.
Make sure your pup (and you) have adequate shade at events. Many events provide pop-up canopies for shade. Use them! If you can’t sit under a canopy, even a chair umbrella can help tremendously. Find some shade somewhere, even if it means you have to pop open the trunk of your car and duck underneath it. You’ll be glad you did.
Tip 7: For lighter colored dogs and dogs with less fur, apply a dog-safe sunscreen.
Just like people, dogs can also get sunburns. This is especially true for dogs with short or lighter colored fur. Use dog-safe sunscreen while outside to protect your dog’s skin. Sunburns can lead to discomfort and pain—or worse, skin cancer!
Tip 8: Know the signs of heatstroke.
Temperatures in California can get very hot. And our pups don’t know that the heat can make them ill. It is our responsibility to recognize the signs of heatstroke before something life-threatening happens. Although water can cool off a dog externally, if they’re playing and using a lot of energy, their internal temperature will still rise. Heatstroke symptoms in pets include heavy panting, gums that are darker pink than normal, a staggering gait, and an overall “drunken” demeanor. Some dogs may vomit.
If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, the American Kennel Club recommends: “Heatstroke therapy involves lowering the dog’s body temperature. Cooling methods include getting him into the shade, spraying him with cool or tepid water, and fanning him. Severely affected dogs require fluids, medication, support, and oxygen.”
Tip 9: Know when to say no.
Your dog’s health and well-being is first and foremost your priority. If temperatures outside are rising to an unsafe level, know when to say no to a dog show, dog sporting event, or any other outdoor gathering. Nothing is worth risking your pup’s safety!
Being prepared for the summer heat and educating yourself on the best methods of helping your dog stay cool is the best way to enjoy any event. When packing for an outing, make sure you bring plenty of water, a cooler with ice, bowls, electrolyte replacement powder or liquid, doggy sunscreen, a device for shade, and any protective gear your pup may need. With a little preparation, the heat won’t spoil your summer fun!