Summer is the season for fun and new adventures, but it also can hide some unique hazards for pets. As the days grow warmer, we need to be extra-observant to be certain our beloved canine side-kick is safe and comfortable on the walks, hikes and road trips we take together.
How do dogs keep themselves cool?
Because they are covered with protective fur, dogs only sweat minimally through their paw pads. Panting is a dog’s alternative to the full-body perspiration that helps keep humans cool.
When dogs pant, they swap hot internal air for cooler outside air. As the moisture along their tongue and respiratory system evaporates, it cools their body temperature. Dogs will also pant when they are excited or stressed.
Panting can also be a sign of underlying respiratory health issues or hidden pain. If you notice your dog is panting even in cool, non-stressful situations, reach out to your veterinarian for guidance.
It’s HOT! What does heat stroke look like?
Because heat stroke can strike so quickly and is life-threatening, it’s important to know the signs so you can react immediately if your dog becomes overheated. When a dog is unable to dissipate internal heat through panting or their paw-pads, their body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Your dog might show some of the following signs:
- Heavy panting and drooling
- Bright red gums
- A very dry nose
- Rapid heart rate
- Lethargy, unresponsiveness, or a refusal to stand up
- Muscle tremors or seizures
What should you do if your dog is suffering from the heat?
STOP and seek shade or a cool shelter immediately. Carry your dog if needed, or ask for help if you can’t. If you are able to take your dog’s temperature and it is under 103 degrees, take your dog immediately to your veterinarian. If your dog’s temperature is over 103 degrees (or if you don’t have a thermometer or can’t reach a veterinarian) sponge or pour cool water over your dog, especially on the underside. If you are indoors, a fan can also help. Seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
Our short-snouted canine friends are at special risk in the heat. Brachycephalic (literally “short head”) is a term that describes American and French bulldogs, pugs, boxers, mastiffs and other dogs with short smushy faces. Due to their shortened skull, the soft tissue structure of their nostrils, palate, larynx, trachea, and even the lungs may be impacted. This can restrict or obstruct airflow.
Hot days are especially distressing for short-snouted dogs, since panting is a canine’s primary means of cooling down. A brachycephalic dog doesn’t have the wide-open airway of a dog with a long muzzle. On hot days, avoid long walks or stressful situations, and instead enjoy relaxing together in air-conditioned comfort. Beware the “pudge” with these pups. Obesity can worsen airflow problems when they are panting from heat or stress.
Even on cooler days, cars can be dangerous for your dog . You would think by now we all would have a heightened awareness of the danger of leaving a pet or a child in a hot car. However, it is easy to underestimate how quickly a car heats up, or to forget a child or dog who is quietly napping. The environment can change from moment to moment: shady spots suddenly are exposed to sun, or cloudy days can clear up without warning. Cars can be extremely dangerous even on days that are only modestly warm.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that most of the temperature rise in a car occurs within the first 15 to 30 minutes. Leaving windows slightly opened does not really slow up heating or decrease the temperature attained. Even at pleasant outside temperatures of 72 degrees, cars heated up to 117 degrees.
Unanticipated delays can happen even when you expect to be in a store for only for a moment. During warm weather, it’s best to leave your dog at home or take your pet back to your house and return to your errands.
Swimming and playing in waterways hold hidden risks. On hot days, it’s understandable that your dog will be lured to the cool water of lakes, streams, and even wet ditches. Nothing is more refreshing than a swim!
Swimming can expose your dog (and yourself) to hidden dangers, so keep your dog under leash control when you explore near waterways.
- Water Intoxication. Dogs who are hot or simply enjoying the fun of playing in water can lap, bite and swallow a huge amount. If too much water is ingested, the balance of electrolytes in a dog’s body can be disrupted, causing a disturbance in brain function that can lead to brain damage, heart failure and even death. Water intoxication can progress very quickly. Signs include lack of coordination, vomiting, dilated pupils and light gum color. This can rapidly progress to difficulty breathing and seizures. If your dog shows any of these behaviors, head straight to the veterinarian, where intravenous fluids can be administered to replace electrolytes.
- Blue-green algae is in the news. This particular summer risk has been receiving a lot of press over the past few years, often due to the tragically rapid death of a beloved dog just enjoying a day out with their guardian. Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can produce toxins that affect both humans or animals. Drinking, breathing, or coming into skin contact with it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and headache. Blue-green algae thrives in warm, slow-moving, nutrient-rich lakes. While dense algal blooms are characterized by a “pea-soup” appearance, lighter blooms may have little or no visible algae. Because the algae floats, it often accumulates at the downwind end of a body of water. “When In Doubt, Stay Out!” is the warning slogan of many state agencies. If you are hiking in warm weather with your pup, it’s best to bring water along rather than allow them to explore and drink along a shoreline.
- Leptospirosis is found in soil and water. It is a disease caused by the Leptospira bacteria. Dogs can contract it by drinking from rivers, lakes, streams and water-filled ditches, or if a cut or scrape on their body comes in contact with the bacteria. It multiplies in the pet’s bloodstream over the next 4 to 14 days, and is spread into the environment through the urine of the infected wild or domestic animal. Signs of leptospirosis can include fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, among others. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease and can be spread from animals to humans. Luckily there is an effective vaccine that protects dogs for at least 12 months. If you hike with your dog, or commonly allow your dog to wade and lap at ditches or waterways, bring this up to your veterinarian, as not all vets routinely vaccinate their patients for leptospirosis.
Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes love the warmth! Be sure your dog is up-to-date on heartworm preventative and is protected by a safe and effective flea and tick program that has been recommended by your veterinarian.
How can you keep your canine companion safe during hot weather?
1. Be comfortable
- Walk during the morning or evening, when temperatures are lower. Schedule veterinary appointments early in the day as well, especially if your vehicle does not have air-conditioning.
- Be sure your pet has access to different temperatures zones in your house. Let them choose between cooler air-conditioned rooms and warmer ones.
- Avoid hot surfaces, like asphalt. It’s easy to forget, when we're clad in shoes, that pets can’t avoid hot pavement as they join us on walks.
2. Be safe
- Make sure yard and garden chemicals are safely stored away and let your lawn service know you have a pet.
- Leave your pet at home when you are running errands during warm weather.
3. Be prepared—bring water and treats!
- Always bring water with you for your pet to drink when you hike or drive to keep your dog from becoming dehydrated. Consider keeping an extra-large bottle of water with you on warm days just in case you need to douse your dog for a quick cool-down. Be sure your dog has access to shade if you pause for a while to rest or chat with a friend.
- Keep treats on hand to make your walks mindful and fun rather than energetic and hot. Pampered Pets USA Soft Baked Dog Treats make delicious rewards for a quick training session in the cool shade of a park.
- Teach your dog to come when called using positive reinforcement with our Soft Baked Dog Treats. Training your dog to come to your call even when they are distracted by fascinating sights and smells will help you keep your dog safe at your side in an emergency or when your dog swerves toward that tempting but forbidden swim!
There’s lots of fun to be had with your dog indoors as well!
Summer training at home or in a class at an air-conditioned training facility is a fun option for both you and your dog. Be sure to bring our treats along for training!
Summer is a glorious time for a dog, and a great season to share new experiences with your canine best friend. Keep everyone safe by being aware of and prepared for summer hazards.
At Pampered Pets USA, we know you consider your pet to be part of the family and want nothing but the best for them. We are here to provide you with accurate and updated information that will help you give your furry friend a healthy and happy life.