June is officially the start of summer, but heat and humidity seem to hit their highs in July and August. Be cautious throughout the warmer months by taking the following precautions to avoid the perils that summer brings for dogs:
Beware of i.d. tags indoors: When the heat outside rises, dogs look for a cool place indoors to relax. Air conditioning vents seem to be the perfect location for pups to catch a chilly breeze. Collars with identification tags that dangle pose a tremendous risk of getting caught in vent slats. At the least, this entanglement is scary and stressful but can ultimately lead to strangulation if not tended to quickly. Prevent this hazard in your home by removing your dogs’ collars indoors or purchasing collars that have imbedded identification tags or embroidered contact information. Microchipping by your veterinarian is also an effective way to have your pet linked to you in case of escape.
Test cement: The outdoor temperature does not have to be soaring for asphalt or sand to scald your dog’s paw pads. Pavement soaks up heat all day long and is still cooling after the sun sets. If you plan to take your dog for a walk or to a summer fun event, consider the walking surface of your excursion. Test the heat of the ground on your own skin. Place the palm of your hand or soles of your feet on the cement or sand for seven to eight seconds. If the heat is uncomfortable for your skin, there is a strong chance that your dog will sustain painful burns to their feet. If possible, leave them home with safe indoor enrichment. If they must accompany you, look into protective footwear and keep them on cooler, pesticide free grassy terrain.
Be realistic: That quick errand you are running while leaving your dog in the car takes much longer than you realize. Dogs get left in cars for just a moment in our minds, but even a few minutes is too long. Car temperatures rise quickly to dangerous levels putting dogs at risk of heat stroke. Studies by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) have shown that a parked car with the windows cracked heats up at almost the exact same rate as a car with the windows closed. Do not think your pet will be fine in the car for a “just a sec”. Leave them at home in a temperature regulated area or have another trusted adult remain in the vehicle with them while the air conditioner is running.
Beat the heat: Engage in outdoor activities with your dogs for shorter periods of time in the early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler. Find shaded walking paths with dirt or grassy surfaces to play on. Be sure to keep your furry friend hydrated and have plenty of fresh clean water available. Adding ice cubes to wading pools or water bowls can be a cooling and fun source of entertainment. Bring outdoor pets indoors to lower temperatures and use cooling mats and fans if air conditioning is not available. When it is just too hot or humid to exercise your energetic pup outside, provide indoor enrichment and training to tire them out. You could set up an indoor obstacle course, use food dispensing toys to provide meals, teach some new tricks and skillsor play games like hide and seek or “find-it” to safely burn some energy.
Know the signs: Dogs are more sensitive to heat and humidity than humans. Long haired dogs, brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds, very young or older dogs, and overweight dogs are especially susceptible to getting overheated. Heatstroke in dogs is life threatening and can have dangerous complications. Watch for early signs of hyperthermia that may help you remedy the condition before it gets too serious. Some of the most detectable symptoms of heat exhaustion are excessive panting or drooling/salivating, dry mucous membranes, bright red gums and tongue, increased heart rate, hyperactivity, disorientation, or mild weakness. Don’t ignore if your dog is acting at all sick during the hot summer months. Stop activity, take them to a cooler area, and call your veterinarian immediately to advise you.
Thankfully, heat exhaustion is preventable – even in the dog days of summer.