Hmm…summertime, long days, B.B.Q’s, the beach, hiking, camping, eating outside. What’s not to like? Or when you think of summer are you more likely to dread hot sleepless nights, more flies, mosquitoes and other creepy crawlies, running for cover between the shady trees? Stuffy commutes on public transport?
Whether you’re all about the sun or a snow bunny, we need to adjust, and so we’ll need to adjust for our dogs too. How best to keep your dog cool, comfortable, happy and healthy during hot weather? Here are some of the key considerations we need to think about.
Tip 1: Car Safety—Dogs Die in Hot Cars.
And not just on really hot days. The temperature inside your car can increase dramatically and very rapidly even on overcast days and even with the windows open. Every Spring and Summer we read reports or hear of tragic cases of dogs dying because they’ve been left in the car. Or perhaps you’ve walked past a dog in a car yourself and worried….. Is he OK? If you’re not sure of how quickly dogs can overheat in cars or would like to share with others some of the possible consequences, we’ve put the stark facts together in our handy pdf download above. Even at 70°F (21.1°C) a dog can get heat stroke in 30 minutes. At 85°F (29.4°C), a dog can get heat stroke in 10 minutes!¹ If it doesn’t kill – it can cause seizures and brain damage.
Tip 2: Heat—Change your walk times.
Bit obvious? Not necessarily, it’s not just on bright sunshiny days that our dogs can feel the effects. Humidity too can leave your pup pooped a lot quicker than normal.
It’s best to change up your dog walking routine to avoid the hottest part of the day. Walk in the very early morning or the evening when the heat is going out of the day.
Tip 3: Paws for Thought—Try the Touch Test.
Unshaded pavements/sidewalks and roads can hold heat even though the air is cooler and the sun less fierce. Whenever you’re walking here’s how to test if it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Crouch down and place the back of your hand on the ground, hold it there for a count of 5 seconds, if you find that exercise hard or even uncomfortable it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. Or just stand still in your bare feet, if you can’t take 10 seconds without hopping up and down, it’s too hot. Wait a little longer.
Tip 4: Remember Your Sunscreen—Cover Up and Protect.
We know that we don’t have to be in direct sunshine to suffer sunburn and it’s the same for our thinner-coated dogs. If your dog has a fine or patchy coat you can slip on a thin cotton T-shirt, or apply sun cream to susceptible areas. The T-shirt will offer some protection from direct sunlight. You can buy specialist canine sunscreen if you like, but waterproof, human stuff will work in exactly the same way. For both you and your Canine companions, the very best cream to use is a zinc oxide-based one. Not only do they offer effective barrier protection but they’re also the least toxic.
Paler-coated dogs are more prone to sunburn and damage than darker coats. Vulnerable areas include the top of the nose and ears though any sparse areas should be watched carefully if you spot any cracked, scaly sores get it checked by your vet.
Tip 5: Sweaty? Not so Much—Avoid Overexertion.
Compared to us, dogs only have a very small amount of sweat glands. The ones generally apparent to us are in their paws, you may have noticed little wet prints on the vet’s examining table. When you consider that the rest of their bodies are covered in fur, then we can see it’s not a very effective cooling system.
Their primary way to release heat is through panting. On hot days your dog is bound to pant more. So, keep any walks to a meandering wander, or slow shady hike rather than a jog or high speed games of fetch on warm days.
This is especially important for our short-nosed breeds—bulldogs, French bulldogs, pugs and the like, these guys can overheat really quickly and may succumb to heatstroke surprisingly fast. Don’t get caught out.
Tip 6: Hydration—Keep Them Topped Up.
Even on overcast, humid days your dog could be prey to heatstroke if you push them too fast, for too long or don’t give access to enough water. Keep an eye on your dog’s bowl at home and make sure it’s replenished frequently.
Always take water on your walk for you and your dog, there’s some great lightweight collapsible bowls on the market now for this purpose.
Tip 7: Walking Alternatives—Mental Stimulation.
If you’re afraid your dog is going to get bored if he’s deprived of his usual high octane sprint around the park, crazy ball games or regular jogging sessions, worry not! We can offer safe alternatives for the summer months.
Get a kid’s paddling pool for the back garden/yard and let your dog bob for some tasty treats or balls, encourage them to paddle and retrieve objects. Do some regular training games around the house and garden. Encourage slower paced activities like hide and seek and scent work. Or why not teach them a new trick?
Tip 8: Stingers, Suckers and Seeds—Let’s stay safe out there.
Summer of course is also the season of bees, wasps, fleas, ticks, and snakes, to name just a few! Nice! No doubt most of you are used to dealing with fleas and ticks, for us in the UK we only have one type of venomous snake, the Adder, and we already have reports of them emerging.
Depending on where in the world you live you may have many more varieties to consider, as well as spiders. Do you know the emergency treatment for the beasties local to your area? If not, now is the time to do your study, enroll in your local pet first aid course and make sure you take a first aid kit on all your adventures.
OK folks I admit it! You will probably need to buy a little backpack for your summer excursions. Let’s recap: Water bottle and bowl, sun cream (remember you can share this), T-Shirt, 1st aid kit, poo bags, treats.
As well as the stingy bitey critters we need to be aware of plants hazardous to our dogs’ health, one of the most common of these all over the world are various seed heads which often come in arrow-head shapes with nasty barbs. These hook onto to your dog’s coat. If not extracted promptly they can work their way into the skin and cause infection as well as irritation and pain. Add these to your post walk body check along with ticks. They’re most likely to attach to paws and ears but they can latch on anywhere your dog is in contact with them.
Tip 9: Popsicles for the Pups—Freeze Your Treats
Why not freeze some of your dog’s favourites. If he’s used to using a Kong or similar, pop one in the freezer ready for those really hot days. Does your dog eat his veggies and fruit? Why not puree some of his favourites and freeze into frozen bites using an ice cube tray.
Or make some doggie ice cream:
- Take one cup of banana or strawberries, mash well
- Combine with 2-3 cups of natural yoghurt or kefir (organic, pasture raised sources are the very best)
- Add a tbsp. of peanut butter (you can soften the peanut butter to make it easier to stir in)
- Mix thoroughly and freeze into small individual containers
Or make some cooling treats by freezing tasty bone broth into cubes.
Tip 10: Water, Water Everywhere—Is Your Pooch Beach-Ready?
Take them to the beach, down to the river or for a paddle in a stream (remember your sunscreen, T-shirt and water!), and let them play. Caution: Never encourage your dog into deep water, by throwing their ball or other toys too far out. Keep play in the shallows near the shore/bank. It’s all too easy for dogs to go out of their depth or be swept along by a current, even in a slow flowing river or in the sea at low tide.
Occasionally rivers and lakes experience flare ups of algae which are hazardous to us and to our canine companions. Make sure you’re aware of and heed warnings where you are.
Or how about this for a great idea? Get the hose out and give your dog a good soaking before your walk. Get that cool water right through the coat and let them drip-dry on the trail! The slow evaporation will keep them feeling lovely and comfortable till you find that brook, or shady forest.
Finally, a Tip for All Seasons.
Wherever you go with your dog and whatever the weather…leave your phone in your pocket. Enjoy your time together, be with them, play with them, engage and communicate.
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