How to Keep Your Dog Cool in the Summer
Many thousands of years ago, wolves began to evolve from a reptilian type species. Many thousands of years after that, the first dogs began to evolve for a different type of lifestyle, separate from wolves. Among all of this, there was one constant: these animals were suited to a harsher, colder environment.
Still, they had to endure summer temperatures. Believe it or not, a double coated dog’s fur is actually designed to help keep him cool during these times! At first glance, you might think less fur means a cooler dog – but that is very rarely the case with many breeds.
Even with all of this, there are still steps you can take to help keep your furry dogs cool in the summer!
Dogs don’t exactly ‘sweat’ like humans do, lacking the same sweat glands throughout their bodies. Though dogs do have some glands on the bottom of their foot pads, their primary method of heat exchange is done through panting.
This doesn’t mean they don’t need just as much water as we do! Make sure you always have a readily available source of water.
- Keep a doggie pool available for your pet to chill out in! Any kiddie pool will do. Dog breeds, like the Labrador Retriever, that were specifically bred for the water will love it, and those that weren’t can easily grow accustomed to the water with a little training!
Offer plenty of trips to, or constant access to, shaded areas to help keep your dog cool during the summer. Depending on the heat and level of exposure, it’s usually at least 10* cooler in the shade!
The easiest way to create instant shade is to buy shade-bearing devices. You can find an example below: K&H Pet Cot Canopy (link to amazon).
You wouldn’t intentionally walk barefoot on scalding sand or over abnormally hot pavement. As soon as your bare feet touch that hot ground, you would run and grab sandals. Dogs, on the other hand, walk day in and day out on their bare feet. Remember, these are paws that never evolved to endure extreme heat; dogs and wolves of old would simply avoid it. Unfortunately, when we walk our dogs, we often don’t consider the temperature of the ground. When keeping dogs in the summer, be careful they don’t burn their feet.
Doggy boots or doggy socks are a fantastic way to protect those paws, not only from hot temperatures, but open wounds from bacteria, offer traction against skidding, and keep your pup’s feet dry!
Sure, your dog may seem awkward, not liking his new booties at first. No worries! In time, your dog will become very comfortable with his new footwear.
Especially if you’re going for a hike in the great outdoors with your dog, or simply leaving him to play in your fenced in yard, always be aware of the temperatures. A dog left in the heat can easily succumb to heat related injuries, so be ever vigilant! A good way to do this is to take advantage of early morning or evening temperatures, before or after the sun’s heat has reached its peak.
Grooming your dog for the summer months is an excellent idea to not only help your pup look his best, but help him or her stay cool and comfortable!
If your dog has only a single layer of fur, no need to worry here. Double coated breeds have two types of fur that are meant for two different things, a dense undercoat of short hairs and a top coat of longer hairs called ‘guard hairs’. Simply stated, the dense undercoat helps protect the dog from hot and cold temperatures, while the top coat helps protect against moisture, dirt, and insects.
During the summer, dogs usually shed their soft undercoat, leaving the guard hairs. The guard hairs will actually work to trap in cool air, while protecting the dog from the sun’s rays and insect bites. Naturally, dogs are never meant to lose their top coat of guard hairs.
Though fleas usually cause little more than a nascence to our dogs, some are allergic to the saliva from a flea’s bite. On top of this, secondary injuries resulting from biting and scratching, such as open wounds, leave your dog defenseless against outside bacteria.
Ticks carry and spread things like Lime Disease, which can result in fatalities if left untreated. In humans, Lyme Disease leaves a signature rash, easy to spot. Unfortunately, it is all but impossible to spot beneath a dog’s coat.
Mosquitos, most prevalent during the summer and near open bodies of water, can spread the worst parasite of all- heartworm. If left untreated, heartworm will prove fatal in most cases, and the treatment itself is very expensive.
When keeping dogs in the summer, be sure to always treat for fleas, ticks and heartworm before your dog begins to suffer and you now have to deal with the problem.
Since the undercoat is below the upper guard hairs and your dog has probably already begun to shed it, shaving his coat will cut off the guard hairs (top coat) before anything. Since these hairs aren’t meant to be cut in the first place and grow at different rates, your dog’s coat is now damaged and may never grow correctly again. Even though your dog has less hair now, he’s lost his ability to trap in cool air, protection from the sun, dirt, and insects.
- Bathe your dog
- Don’t ‘over bathe’ your dog
- Don’t bathe within 48 hours of applying any type of topical ointment
- Check regularly for fleas and ticks
- Always provide heartworm, flea and tick protection – mosquitos, carrying heartworm are often most active during the summer.
- Talk to your groomer & veterinarian about a great summer haircut
Most dogs were bred to endure the climates of their homeland, but any dog is susceptible to heat related injuries, just like any human. The idea is very simple! When their body begins to heat up, dogs perspire through panting- and thus begin to lose water. It’s the exact same thing with humans and sweating; eventually we’ll have to replace the water lost.
If the water lost through panting isn’t replaced through drinking, the dog will eventually not have enough to maintain his circulatory volume, and his body will begin to overheat.
Hyperthermia: HypERthermia is a drastic increase in body temperature, above normal levels. For dogs, temperatures above 103* Fahrenheit are usually considered hypothermic. Dogs already have a slightly higher body temperature than humans.
Heat Stroke: The body has multiple methods of involuntarily warming or cooling itself, like shivering or panting/sweating. Heat Stroke is a severe form of hyperthermia that occurs when the body can no longer accommodate for excessive internal heat. Heat stroke can lead to multiple organ dysfunction and failure.
Even if it isn’t too hot outside, the interior of a car can heat up very quickly as the sun’s rays shine through glass windows. Unfortunately, many dogs have met their end in situations such as these, when left unattended in a hot car.
Be sure to watch for excessive panting, signs of discomfort, discolored/purplish gums, and dizziness. You’ll find a more complete listing on the signs and symptoms of heat stroke in dogs by checking out the infographic above!
- Remove the dog from the heat, to an air conditioned area if possible
- Carry dog if possible, restricting all physical activity
- Offer a source of cool water for your dog to drink
- Wet lips, tongue and gums if dog can’t drink on his own
- Cool the dog with cool (not cold or warm) water, perhaps from a hose
- Contact an emergency veterinarian
It may not sound appealing, but, just like human trauma patients, the best way to take a dog’s temperature is rectally. Normal limits should be between 99.5 and 102.5. Most pet stores will already sell a digital rectal thermometer for you!
Now that the weather is nice outside, and you’ve said goodbye to that winter coat, it’s time to take the dog out! Dogs are extremely intelligent and very adaptable animals; there are countless activities you both can try. If you want to impress your friends, why not get into agility training? Let your pup socialize with other dogs at the dog park! Both camping and hiking are all time summer favorites.
- Agility Training
- Daily Walks
- Visits to Dog Park
- Socialization With Other Dogs
- Visits to the Beach
Summer is a fantastic time to get out and enjoy this new bonding experience the warm, comfortable temperatures offer. As long as you’re constantly vigilant of possible dangers the heat could present, there is no better time to enjoy outdoor activities with your dog!
Not all Dog Breeds are Good Swimmers
Though many dogs absolutely love the water, or can at least be trained to love it, pools or other open bodies of water pose a deadly threat to others. Short snouted breeds, such as bulldogs or pugs, are susceptible to shortness of breath. Many have drown in these situations; caution is integral!
Careful observation and constant vigilance are the keys to keeping dogs in the summer. Through all of the countless activities available to you and your pet, the sun does present a constant threat.