Summer has finally arrived and this is when we all love spending the long sunny days outdoors with our family and pets. It’s the perfect time to host a backyard BBQ, play catch with the kids, or take a refreshing swim in the pool. Of course we want to share all this fun and excitement with our four-legged friends, so here are some ways to keep your dog cool in the summer and help protect him from overheating.
Unlike people, dogs are not able to sweat. Dogs might lose a small amount of heat through their paw pads and skin surface, but dogs primarily cool themselves off by panting. Unfortunately, as temperatures rise and it becomes hotter and more humid, panting alone is not enough to keep cool. And imagine – if the outdoor temperatures feels bad for us, think about what it must feel like for our dogs that have fur coats on all the time! So let’s do all we can to keep your dog cool in the summer.
Keep Your Dog Well Hydrated
Dogs need to drink a lot of water when it’s hot outside, so make sure your dog has access to fresh, clean water all the time. 70-80% of your dog’s body mass is made of water, so losing even a small percent of body fluid could cause serious problems. To help ensure proper hydration, put out several water bowls for your dog to choose from – that way, whether he’s playing inside the house or outside relaxing in the shade, he’ll always have fresh water nearby. Place the outdoor water bowl in a shady location away from the sun, and change the water frequently so that it’s always fresh and cool. When choosing water bowls for your dog, pick ones that are large enough to hold plenty of water and will not accidentally tip over. Dog water dishes come in all sizes, shapes and styles. You can use a stainless steel or ceramic water bowl to help limit bacterial contamination, and some water bowls even come with platforms and stands. There are also “on demand” automatic dog water bowls that you would hook up to a faucet or hose. And if you are looking for something a little more elaborate, there are some beautiful automatic outdoor pet fountains that your dog may enjoy. Also, with all the heat and humidity that the summer brings, bacteria and algae can easily grow in your dog’s water dish, so make sure to clean it regularly with a scrub brush. Water bowls can also easily become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, so check the water and change it regularly. The overall key here is to prevent dehydration before it occurs, so if your dog has plenty of access to water, he’s more likely to drink freely and stay well hydrated.
Plenty of Shade and Shelter
Another important way to keep your dog cool in the summer to make sure he has plenty of shelter and shade. Ideally, as the temperatures soar during the summer time, its’ best to keep your dog inside the house where it’s nice and cool. You’ll probably want to close the shades where the sun is the strongest and use your air conditioning and fans as needed. There are lots of products on the market that can help keep your dog cool in the summer. Your dog might enjoy a cooling bed that can be filled with cold water, or a canopy bed that is elevated off the ground. There are also cooling pads, cooling vests as well as stylish cooling bandanas. Or you can make your own cooling aids such as freezing water in a hot water bottle and then wrap it in a heavy towel – just put it in your dog’s bed to help him stay cool.
If your dog is outside during the heat, make sure he has plenty of shady spots where he can lay down and keep cool. Hopefully you have lots of shade from trees in your backyard (see our blog on How To Create A Pet Friendly Garden) His water bowls should be near him in the shaded area and you might also want to put down a cool soft bed and some of his favorite toys to encourage him to stay in the shade. Dog houses or walled kennels are not good choices; they might provide shelter, but they also trap in hot air and have very little circulation which could create a dangerous situation for your dog. And, if possible, install a doggie door in your house so your dog can easily come inside if he so chooses.
Fun Ways to Keep Cool
A great way to keep your dog cool in the summer is to get him a small wading pool (molded plastic, not inflatable) . These pools are light weight, inexpensive and can provide refreshing fun during the summer. It’s simple to fill with cool water and place in a shady area where your dog can play– just make sure you supervise your dog (and children) at all times when your dog is in the pool . There are lots of ways you can help keep your dog cool in the summer – you might also try running a sprinkler or hose to see if your dog likes that, too!
A few other ideas – you can cool down his water by putting ice cubes in his water bowls or put his dog food in the refrigerator so that it’s nice and cool before you feed it to him. Or you might want to make some special doggie treats to help him stay cool. One fast and refreshing treat to make is frozen dog pops – it’s quick and it’s easy with just one ingredient. Just take either plain chicken or beef broth (fat-free, low sodium) and pour it into ice cube trays or mini muffin pans. Freeze it overnight and serve it to your dog on those hot days. Another easy treat is to freeze baby food (chicken or beef) in mini muffin pans – your dog will be so thankful!
Exercising or Walking Your Dog
Take extra care when exercising your dog during hot days and adjust the length and intensity of exercise according to the temperature. Try to walk on either grass or a dirt path since your dog’s paws can burn easily on asphalt, sidewalks or sand if it’s hot. The best way to check is to place your hand on the surface before you walk your dog – if it’s too hot for your hand, then it’s definitely too hot for your dog’s paws. Keep your walks short and take frequent breaks as needed. On very hot or humid days, it’s best to save this activity for either early in the morning or in the evening time when the temperatures have cooled off and if you are walking your dog after dark, have a reflective collar or vest as well as a light on your dog’s collar for extra precaution.
No Parking Allowed
Never leave your pet alone in a car during hot weather. Even parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked open is not enough to keep your dog safe from the dangers of the heat. Although you might plan on being away for just a few minutes, a car’s inside temperature can skyrocket quickly – even with the windows cracked open, the inside of a car can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes, though the outside temperature is 85 degrees. In many states, it’s illegal to leave your pet unattended in a parked car in a manner that endangers his safety or health. Yet despite the repeated warnings about this, each summer we hear repeated reports about dogs that became sick or die of heat stroke because they were left in the car. The best thing you can do for your dog is leave him at home.
Pet parents should take extra care with puppies, overweight dogs, senior dogs as well as brachycephalic (short-nosed) dogs such as Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs. All of these dogs are especially prone to overheating. These tips are all good starting point to help you keep your dog cool in the summer – do you have any tips you’d like to add?