Summer is here and that means long days in the blistering hot sun. You know what to do when you get too hot and dehydrated, but do you know how to care for your beloved dog? Dogs don’t have the same cooling mechanism as you do. As a responsible owner, that means it falls to you to keep your dog comfortable and cool all summer.
Bring fresh water with you everywhere. Get your dog a personal water bottle and fill it up just like your own. Stash a bowl in your car and pack a bottle of ice water on car rides and when out for a walk.
Minimize Sun Exposure
Dogs are most likely to suffer heat stroke between noon and 2pm. When possible, keep your dog inside during these hours. If you are out at the lake or the park, let her sit in a shady area to cool down and give her plenty of water. Let her hang out in the air conditioned car with you to lower her body temperature.
If your dog insists on frolicking in the water, bring her in every hour or so and feed her water under a shady tree. For shorter-haired dogs it’s a good idea to pick up some pet-safe sunscreen. There are products specifically formulated for dogs. Never use a human sunscreen as it may have chemicals that aren’t safe for dogs. Apply sunscreen to areas with less fur.
Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Car
Even if you are just popping into the store for a minute, a hot car can be very dangerous to a dog. Vets see it time and time again – dogs being rushed into their offices with critical signs of heat stroke due to being left in a car.
Hot car plus dog equals 1) needless suffering and 2) walking a thin line to dog heat stroke. Consider carrying two sets of keys with you to leave the air conditioning running with the door locked if you have to leave her in the car.
Or leave her at home if you know that you have errands to run!
How to Recognize Dog Heat Stroke
Being outside for too long, being left in a car, or not getting enough water can put any animal at risk for heat stroke. Here are the signs to watch for:
- Heavy panting or difficulty breathing
- Unsteady gait
- Seizures or a coma
In the early panting stages, take action by getting your dog into a shaded area, preferably an air conditioned room. Give your dog water. If your dog shows no signs of relief, take him or her to a vet right away.
As a Last Resort…
If it’s blistering hot both outside and inside, and your air conditioner is on the fritz, try these last resort tricks to prevent dog heat stroke:
- Feed your dog some ice cubes.
- Spray your dog with cold water.
- Place a wrapped ice pack around your dog’s neck.
- If you have a long-haired dog, keep his or her hair short all summer long with regular trips to the groomer.
- Limit her exercise to the coolest parts of day – early morning or late evening.
Keeping your dog cool and comfortable is key to an enjoyable summer. Pay close attention to the signs of over-heating and protect your dog from getting too much sun.