Here in the Southern California sunshine, we pet-parents have perfected a dozen ways to beat the heat during the summer months. However, we might not have thought about how heat affects our fur-kids. While most animals are better prepared than humans to handle the elements, the opposite is often true for the dogs living in hot, suburban backyards.
Dogs handle heat differently than people do in several ways. Dogs’ coats are designed to help insulate their bodies from heat by protecting the skin from direct sunlight and allowing air to flow through the hair to help cool the skin. While it might be tempting to shave your fluffy dog during the summer, they are actually being protected from the sun by that thick coat. A better way to help your dog stay cool is daily brushing during the summer months as it detangles the hair and allows better airflow through the coat. That being said, coat insulation only protects your dog minimally from the heat and won’t be enough to keep them safe in extreme heat conditions.
Unlike us, dogs only sweat through their nose and paw pads and they rely on panting to release heat from their body. This is not a very effective way to quickly lower body temperature (especially for very short-snouted breeds) and dogs rely on their ability to find shady, cool areas on hot days. This becomes problematic when pet-parents forget to provide their dogs with an area for them to cool down. If you’re pup is outside, take time to make sure that they have access to shade throughout the day as the sun moves. Placing tile in a shady area can give them a cool surface to lay on to help regulate body temperature. Access to cool, fresh water is also hugely important as they dehydrate quickly by panting.
Many pet-parents are tempted to bring the dog with them in the Summer-time, but this can lead to more dangerous situations. Leaving your dog in the car to run a quick errand can be deadly. This is because the outside air temperature multiplies quickly inside a car, even with the windows cracked. While we might think that it’s fine to leave the dog in the car for a quick errand on a 75* day, the inside of that vehicle can jump 10* in five minutes, 29* in 30 minutes, and 47* in an hour! Cars quickly become ovens in sunlight and a single errand can be long enough to turn deadly for your pet. If a dog’s internal temperature reaches 104* they go into heat stroke and require immediate action to help them cool down. An internal temperature of 106* will cause permanent damage to a dogs system and organs. A dog that is nearing heat stroke or heat exhaustion will often pant heavily with thick saliva and have dark gums or tongue. They may behave as if they are dizzy or disoriented and collapse or vomit. If you suspect that a dog may be suffering extreme heat, you can help them lower their body temperature by placing cool, damp clothes on their chest and paw pads. Never use ice or ice water as the temperature shock can harm them. As the dog slowly cools down, offer them cool water to drink. If the dog is unable to drink or unresponsive, take them to a vet immediately.
Walking a dog in the heat can be equally dangerous. Dogs cannot sweat as freely as humans can and they quickly become dehydrated if they have to walk while panting heavily to release heat. Dogs are also directly exposed to the ground temperature through their paw pads. We walk with them in our shoes and often don’t consider how hot the pavement or trail is for our dogs. Black asphalt in particular is dangerous for dogs to walk on in the summer. An 87* sunny day can make an asphalt pavement 140*! To test pavement, place your hand flat on the ground and hold it there. If it’s uncomfortably hot to hold it there for ten seconds then it’s too hot for your dog’s paws! Always bring water for your dog on any walk and especially on warmer days. In the summer time, try to only walk your pup in the early mornings or evenings to beat the heat.
Kahooligan Tip - Helping our dog(s) beat the heat is crucial, but it can also be enjoyable. Taking your dog out to a lake or dog beach in the evenings can be a fun and cooling outing! You can make your own simple frozen treats by putting canned dog food inside a Kong or puzzle ball and freezing it inside. Most dogs also love a rope or stuffy soaked in water and frozen as a fun and hydrating toy! Kahoots also offers specialty dog ice cream in six fun flavors!