Your Dog and the Heat

Posted by Amy Hempe on

The heat and humidity we are experiencing this summer has not shown any signs of letting up. If you find it uncomfortable, chances are that your dog will also find it so. 

How can you take care of your dog in hot weather?

1) Plan Any Outings Carefully

If you are planning on a hike or a long walk, be sure to check the  weather ahead of time to ensure that you aren't taking your pup out in dangerous heat. Even if the temperatures are not supposed to rise above 90 degrees, be prepared. Take plenty of water for both yourself and your dog. Consider taking a separate water bottle for just your dog - you may be surprised by how much they'll need to rehydrate.  Collapsable water bowls are extremely light and very easy to pack. And if your dog has his own water bottle, you can pour unused water from the bowl back into the bottle - that isn't something I'd be willing to do if we are sharing a bottle. (I love my dogs but I'm not willing to drink their slobber.)

It's also good to know how much shade you will encounter during your trip. Your dog might need to rest, and some easy shade to plop down in will make recharging their energy quicker. 

I also know that my girl Sophie will want to get into any water that we see - the dirtier the better. On one of our favorite hikes, she likes to get into a creek and like down. It's a great cool-down so I don't deny her this fun. As a result, one of my preparations is to always bring a big towel on our walks.

2) Test the Pavement First

This is a good rule to remember: put your hand down on the road or sidewalk for ten seconds. If it is too hot for your hand, it will be too hot for a dog's paws. Don't use a dog's enthusiasm for a walk as your gauge: dogs can be like teenagers. They will be stoked to do the most dangerous things even when it's perfectly clear that it's an activity best left avoided. 

If you have no choice about taking the dog onto hot pavement (city dwellers in apartments face this issue) spend as little time as possible on the sidewalk before moving to grass or dirt. While I don't advocate letting a dog invade somebody's garden, moving through a small bit of landscaping can be OK if it keeps the dog safe. I found myself in this position quite often as a professional dog-walker, and as long as you are armed with poop bags, people can be fairly forgiving about dogs on the edge of their property.

3) Keep the Water Bowl Filled

Your dogs will certainly need much more water in the summertime to keep their internal temps down. Make sure that your fill a decent sized water bowl every morning. If it is possible, check on it during the day to ensure it stays filled and clean. I have two large dogs drinking from one main bowl that holds about nine cups of water. They will drink an entire bowl in a day. And since they are playing outdoors during the day, the bowl will inevitably get dirty. It's important to keep it clean as well to prevent the bacteria from building up.

4) Know What Heatstroke Looks Like

  • Glazed eyes
  • Excessive panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heart rate 
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures

If you dog experiences any of these symptoms, do what you can to cool them down. Pour cool water over their chest and apply wet towels or rags. Get them to shade and then carry them to a car so you can drive them to a vet. They will need medical attention to make sure that they won't experience even greater health complications as a result.

The aforementioned Sophie loves sitting outside in the heat. I don't understand it. She's a thick-furred critter so it makes little sense to me.  Perhaps it's her need to keep the yard safe from squirrels, no matter the cost. I have to keep an eye on her to be sure that she doesn't over heat. I've brought her inside when she clearly would rather stay outside, but I want to ensure that she doesn't get sick. 

It should go without saying to never leave your dog in a hot car with windows up, unless the AC is on. Some communities have even begun allowing concerned citizens to break car windows if they think a dog is in danger. Just avoid this situation altogether.

Keep your pup safe and enjoy your summer!

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