Summer is here, along with its scorching temps. You’ll probably want to bring your dog outdoors for some fresh air, sunlight, and exercise, but warmer temperatures can create certain hazards for your pet, including overheating and dehydration. Here are eight veterinarian-approved tips that will show you how to keep a dog cool in summer while enjoying some fun exercises.
Exercise in the morning or evening
Limit your dog’s exercise to early morning and late evening. According to Dr. Brenda Stephens DVM, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences of NC State University, Raleigh, this is the time when the weather will be the coolest. You can also walk your dog in shaded areas if you are exercising outside.
Stephens says to also consider the relative humidity. The dog will experience more heat if there is a higher humidity due to additional moisture in the atmosphere. Dr. Stephens says that dogs pant to cool down. Dogs pant to exhale moist air while inhaling dry air. Evaporation keeps them cool. The air that is densely humid already has moisture in it and does not help cool the dog down.
Take Breaks During Outdoor Dog Activities
Another way to keep your dog cooler is to take breaks between dog exercising sessions. Be sure to find a shady area for your dog to rest and recuperate. You also can try exercising in short spurts—like 10 minutes three times per day—versus one long period of exercising.
Bring Water With You
You should always have a water bottle and a collapsible dog travel bowl (such as the Prima Pets Collapsible Travel Bowl) with you during outdoor dog exercising activities so your dog has access to cool, fresh water. Dr. Stephens suggests pausing every 15 minutes to take water breaks.
Be Mindful of Hot Outdoor Surfaces
In the summer, surfaces outside can become extremely hot. Asphalt heats up quickly and may even cause your pet to burn its paw pads. Also, sand can get very hot.
You should test the temperature of any surface that you are walking on. Dr. Stephens recommends placing your hand on sand or concrete, or even a walkway. You can tell if the temperature is too high for your dog by holding your hand on it for longer than 5 seconds. If you want to use protective boots for warm weather, then Dr. Stephens recommends that your dog be introduced to the shoes slowly.
“There is a very small percentage of dogs who will adapt to having things on their feet immediately,” says Dr. Stephens. Slowly get your dog used these booties, before you take them on a walk.
Try Indoor Exercises
You can try air-conditioned indoor activities for dogs if it is too hot outside or your pet doesn’t like to be in the sun. Dr. Stephens recommends using the hallway for fetch.
The Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, has a Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals. Dr. Deborah Linder is the head. For smaller dogs, swimming in a bathtub under supervision may be enough. Dog pools and swimming ponds are also becoming increasingly common.
Adding Dr. Linder, “Agility classes, behavior training or the dispensing of toys that require mental or physical activity are excellent ways to keep pets moving and happy.”
Be Extra Cautious With Dog Breeds That Are Sensitive to Heat
If you have a brachycephalic dog (dogs with shortened nose/faces like Pugs, Boston Terriers and bulldogs), you’ll want to take extra precautions when it comes to working out in the heat. These dogs can’t pant and cool themselves as efficiently as other breeds because their short noses give them a shorter airway, says Dr. Stephens.
Know the Signs of Overheating
It is important to know the signs of heatstroke in dogs so that you can make sure your pet is enjoying their outdoor time. Many dogs will stop walking, seek shady spots to rest, or walk closer to their owners if they’re overexerted. “Look for signs of stress, such as excessive yawning or blinking; panting or [signs of] dehydration, such as dry gums; or changes in your pet’s behavior, such as walking in front of you or tugging on the leash. If your dog will allow it, you can gently work up to taking your pet’s temperature with an ear thermometer yourself. The normal temperature range for dogs is 101 to 102.5,” says Dr. Linder.
Other signs to watch out for include vomiting and diarrhea or bright red gums or tongue, which can be a sign of a circulation problem. Dr. Linder notes that obese dogs are prone to overheating and should also be monitored carefully. If you observe these signs, it’s best to get your dog to the vet. Call ahead to let the staff know that you believe your dog is overheating so they can prepare.
Cool Your Dog Down
You should take your dog to a cool, air-conditioned building if you feel that they are overheating. You can offer your dog cold drinks like iced water or frozen treats such as dog popsicles or peanut butter. But don’t make them eat or drink anything if that’s not what they want. A cool shower (but not cold) may help too, as long as the dog seems to be enjoying it. According to Dr. Stephens, you can also spritz your dog with water and wrap them in a cool towel. Call your vet if their condition does not return quickly.