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Keeping Dogs Safe and Cool in Hot Weather


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Heat stroke can be a real issue for dogs.

People sweat, dogs pant. And panting isn’t nearly as efficient at cooling the body. That’s the case for all dogs, just because they are dogs. Dogs do sweat a bit from their paw pads (sometimes leaving sweat marks – and if that happens, you know your dog is really hot). However, panting just isn’t all that effective at cooling, combined with winter coats many dogs wear year-round. If the dog is black or brown, the coat color radiates heat. No wonder dogs are so susceptible to heat stroke.

(Josh Feeny image)

Brachycephalic dogs have even more problems when it’s hot. These are dogs with the look of a pushed in faces; and it’s more than a look – dogs like the Affenpinscher, Boxer, Brussells Griffon, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Japanese Chin, Pekingese, Pug, Rottwiler, Shih Tzu, some dogs referred to as pit bulls and many others have limited airways.  A Bulldog unfortunately may huff and puff if walking down the street if it’s 75 degrees and sunny. Tied up in the sun outside a convenience store, or certainly left in a hot car may be a quick death sentence for these dogs.

Sometimes it’s various factors combined. For example, an elderly overweight Pug is definitely going to suffer in the heat. And like the Bulldog, that dog may define extreme heat as over 75 degrees.

Jumping Into Water

Jumping into water is cooling for dogs just like it is for us. But do consider that not all dogs are natural born swimmers. In fact, many of the brachycephalic breeds listed above may sink like a rock. Labradors and definitely Newfoundland dogs tend to get really hot, and swimming can be a fun way to cool off.

But there is a way that even dogs who can’t swim can cool off in water. Even a Bulldog or Pug would have difficulty drowning in a kiddie pool if there’s only 6-inches of water in the pool.

Still, do consider that even dogs who love to swim can’t doggy paddle forever. Each year some dogs jump into swimming pools but can’t find a way out. There should be adult supervision when dogs are  swimming in pools. At lakes and rivers, the same is true regarding adult supervision. It’s possible to be confused about which way land is, and dogs have been known to head out to sea and get into trouble. And just as people can get caught in rip tides, so can dogs.

Dogs not accustomed to swimming or often for no particular reason, might suffer an affliction called “swimmer’s tail.” The tails almost appears broken, and looks like it’s painful for the dog to wag – likely because it is indeed painful. If this happens, contact your veterinarian who may prescribe  medication to relieve pain. Otherwise, the condition usually resolves on its own after a day or two.

Pavement Pain

In very hot weather, it’s also best to take dogs out for walks early in the morning or after dark because the concrete or asphalt is cooler. When it’s 85 degrees and sunny, midday asphalt can exceed 150 degrees.  Of course, given a choice dogs will avoid walking on a surface that hot. However, we don’t always give dogs the choice – on a leash, there’s nowhere to go, so dogs “dance” on hot asphalt, potentially burning paw pads. If that begins to happen, pick up a small dog; or do what you can to get off the asphalt as soon as you can. Indeed dog paws can be burnt walking on surfaces that hot.

And if you run with you best pal, it’s best to do so before the sun comes up or as it’s going down. Be sure to carry water for yourself and for your dog.

This Stinks

Another summer concern is dogs getting skunked. Here’s what to do:

  • Step #1: Get a clothespin – that’s for your nose.
  • Step #2: Scrub your pooch in a solution of one quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda and one teaspoon liquid dish soap.
  • Step #3: Rinse.
  • Step #4: Scrub the pet again – this time with a solution of half tomato juice and half water as needed.
  • Step #5: Rinse.
  • Step #6: Go to the movies while the odor subsides.
  • Step #7 Use a manufactured product, such as Fresh Wave, and skip steps 2 through 6.

Here are the signs of heatstroke in dogs.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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