While sunny months may seem like an ideal time for dog owners to be out and about with their pets, the summer heat can be harmful to dogs. ManyPets analyzed research and reports from veterinary schools and other pet experts to compile a list of ways to protect your dog from hot weather.
The health issues dogs experience during the summer season underscore the dangers of extreme weather — pet parents need to be proactive about their dogs’ safety. According to American Veterinary Medical Association research, hundreds of dogs die yearly from heat exhaustion after being left in hot cars. A U.K. study released in 2020 discovered that dogs are just as likely to die from exercise-induced heat stroke as they are from being left in hot cars.
Heat stroke in dogs is a potentially deadly condition, and with the rise in global temperatures, it might become more common. This condition in dogs usually occurs when body temperatures rise beyond 106 degrees Fahrenheit, even without previous signs of illness. However, a U.S. military study shows that working canines’ temperatures may routinely approach 108 degrees Fahrenheit without causing harm. While military dogs can withstand extreme temperatures, other dogs, like flat-faced breeds and older dogs, are at greater risk of heat stroke.
As severe and extreme as heat stroke is, it is not the only dog health issue that accompanies hot weather. Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are less severe conditions that may arise. Common symptoms are:
- Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
- Rapid pulse
- Muscle tremors
Once these symptoms are observed, it is best to take your dog out of the sun into a cool environment.
Continue reading for seven ways to help keep your dog cool and protected during the hottest months of the year.
Take Them Swimming
Nothing beats a cold dip on a bright and sunny day. Dogs love splashing in the water to cool down, and swimming is a terrific alternative to walking in the summer heat. Swimming is an excellent aerobic exercise that tones and strengthens a dog’s muscles and cools the body down.
While swimming is fun for dogs, owners must take certain precautions to keep their pets safe. It’s a common belief that all dogs can swim, but this is a myth. If a dog does not enjoy swimming, do not force them to do it, and never toss a dog into the water. Dogs can and do drown. Lakes and rivers can also be attractive swimming spots, as long as owners take care to observe the current at the river.
Dog owners also need to steer clear of areas with cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, which can cause severe neurological or liver damage. After swimming—whether in a pool, river, lake, or ocean—pet owners should always rinse off their dog with clean water to remove any chemicals or debris.
Cover Their Paws
Sunny days often mean more play time for dogs, but owners must be mindful of the hazard to paws when the temperature rises. Common paving materials can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit in the height of summer, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Asphalt surfaces, for example, absorb a great deal of the sun’s heat and even contribute to the surrounding air temperature.
When owners walk their dogs on hot surfaces for too long, they risk getting pad burns, which can cause blistering, tissue loss, and severe pain. Find out whether the surface is too hot by pressing the back of your hand against the surface. If you can’t hold it there for seven seconds, it’s too hot for a dog’s paws. Covering their paws with dog shoes, socks, or peel-and-stick pads help protect the paws from heat and injuries.
Keep Them Groomed
In hot weather, regular grooming helps keep dogs cool. Although dogs do not sweat through their skin, grooming helps brush off dead or extra hair, leaving your dog with a thinner coat that is better for remaining cool. In the process, dog parents also get the chance to spot infections, allergies, fleas, and ticks.
A common misconception is that shaving a dog’s hair helps keep them cool. It might sound surprising, but shaving has little effect on cooling them down; rather, it exposes the dog and its sensitive skin to health risks. When the temperature rises, a dog will naturally undergo a coat change (molting), meaning its thicker coat thins out. Therefore, instead of shaving, dog groomers advise trimming the hair. Shortening the hair reduces the heat trapped against the skin and helps the dog stay cool.
Give Them Frozen Treats
Cold treats can keep dogs happy and cool them down when they feel hot and listless. Dog owners can make tasty frozen treats with peanut butter, tuna, salmon, or other dog-friendly food.
As with any new treats, start with a modest quantity to ensure your dog’s digestive system can manage the treat without leading to vomiting or diarrhea. Dog owners must also be mindful of the added calories to prevent their dogs from becoming obese or overweight. The frozen treats must be a suitable size for your dog; owners should not feed a little dog a chunky frozen treat because it might be a choking hazard. In these cases, smaller treats or even ice flakes are preferable. These are also beneficial for dogs—regardless of their size—who have a tendency to wolf down food.
Limit Walks to Early Mornings and Evenings
Rain or sun, summer or winter, regular walks are necessary to help dogs exercise and stay healthy. Experts agree that taking your dog for a walk in temperatures up to 68 degrees Fahrenheit is generally safe.
But anything above 77 degrees Fahrenheit is regarded as risky. This is especially true for large-breed or flat-faced dogs, dogs that are very young or very old, pregnant dogs, and dogs that suffer from obesity or other underlying health problems. It’s even possible for dogs to suffer heat stroke at temperatures as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
The best time of the day to walk your dog is in the morning or evening when it’s cooler. Taking a dog on a walk at these times reduces the risk of heat stroke, which can lead to severe and even life-threatening conditions like:
- Kidney failure
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Neurological issues
Walking your dog in the morning or evening also reduces the risk of dogs burning their paws on pavement.
Just keep in mind: While certain dogs are at higher risk, alldogs are vulnerable to heat-related health conditions, including heat stroke.
Wrap Them in a Cool Towel
The average body temperature of a dog is between 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If a dog’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees or above, it’s an emergency, and indications of heat exhaustion may appear. Between 105 and 107 degrees, their thinking processes may be affected. Excessive panting is one of the first symptoms of heat exhaustion. Dogs, with their fur-covered bodies, release heat by panting. In cases of excessive heat, they are sometimes unable to remove heat quickly enough to cool themselves; this could lead to heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
To help dogs cool down, especially during the hot weather, owners can soak a towel in cool water—not ice cold water—and place it around their dog. The towel should not be left on the dog for too long because it can become hot and raise the dog’s temperature instead of lowering it.
Protect Their Skin from the Sun
It’s no secret dogs love being outside, but dog owners must safeguard their furry friends from harmful UV rays that can cause skin conditions. This is why protecting your pooch’s skin is essential.
Sunscreen keeps pets safe from harmful rays. However, applying the incorrect type of sunscreen might also cause issues. Dog owners must only use sunscreen designed exclusively for dogs. These products do not include zinc oxide or para-aminobenzoic acid, compounds that are hazardous to dogs if consumed. A waterproof, odorless dog sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 is also recommended. For dog owners unable to find a suitable sunscreen, UV-blocking sun shirts are a good alternative.
This story originally appeared on ManyPets and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.
Featured image credit: Murilo Viviani
About the author
James Ola Adisa
James Ola Adisa has spent the last five years creating content centered around health and wellness for publications around the globe. He has been featured in The Men’s List, Stigma-Free Society, RtoR, and other major publications. His previous work delves into overall health and wellness, and sensitive men’s health care issues.