Ahhhhhh, summertime! Trips to the lake, patio dining, longer days and BBQing are just a few of our favourite things about summer. Though summer doesn’t officially start until the Solstice in June, it’s already starting to feel like summer. Here in Southern Ontario, the temperature can reach well into the high 30°s celsius (high 90°s F) with a humidex in the 40°s (over 100°F). We humans beat the heat by staying indoors, drinking cold beverages and jumping into cool lakes. But what about keeping your dog cool? Luckily, many of your favourite ways to keep cool also work for your pup. We’re here with some tips and tricks to help keep your dog cool and healthy this summer.
First of all, let’s talk a little about your dog’s biology. Dogs don’t sweat the same way we do. They do have some sweat glands similar to humans but found on their paws, which aids in cooling and regulating their body temperature. Dogs also pant to help cool themselves. Panting evaporates moisture from their tongues, nasal passages, and the lining of their lungs, cooling themselves as air passes over the moist tissue.
Though it may be tempting to give your dog a short haircut or shave to help beat the heat, that can actually cause the opposite and make your dog more susceptible to heat stroke or even sunburn. Their inner coat acts as an insulating layer, keeping the heat out. Speak with your groomer about an appropriate cut for your dog to keep them safe during the hot months.
Heat stroke is a life threatening emergency, both in humans and dogs. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms so you can recognize it and act quickly.
- Raised temperature (A dog’s normal body temperature is 38.6°C or 101.5°F)
- Rapid breathing and panting
- Excess salivation and thickened saliva
- Fatigue or depression
- Muscle tremors
If you notice your dog experiencing these symptoms, get your dog inside and contact your vet immediately. Wrap your dog in cold wet towels, especially the underarm/belly/groin area. A fan may be used on the dog during the cooling process. Avoid cooling too rapidly to avoid shock. Allow access to cool water, but don’t force your dog to drink. Your vet may push IV fluids if dehydration is a concern.
That brings us to how we can help keep our dogs cool and happy during the hot summer months. Some of these tips also work great to keep humans cool too!
- Never leave your dog in a parked car. The temperature can rise quickly in a car, as much as 1 degree Fahrenheit per minute. That could mean that in 30 minutes, your car’s temperature can rise from 30°C (86°F) to 47°C (116°F). In many jurisdictions, there are actually laws against this. If you’re running errands where Fido is not welcome, it’s best to leave them at home and avoid at minimum a fine, and at worst, the death of your beloved pet.
- Avoid outside activities during midday when the sun is at its highest and hottest. Opt for early morning/late evening walks and outings.
- Check the pavement temperature before walks. Place your hand or bare foot on the pavement for five seconds. If it's too hot for your skin, then it's most likely too hot for your pet.
- Plan outings to lakes for a place to cool down or trail walks to avoid full sun and hot pavement. Of note, not all dogs can swim, so make sure you keep a close eye on your dog in the water or use a doggie life jacket for safety.
- Provide access to water at all times. Refresh it frequently, add ice cubes to chill it, bring a collapsible or combo water bottle/bowl to keep them hydrated on outings and walks.
- Replace a portion of their regular diet with canned food to increase fluid intake.
- Provide places to cool off. Offer shaded areas outside, kiddie pools with water or run the sprinkler. You can also provide a cooling mat which you can either buy or DIY your own by soaking a towel in cold water, or wrapping towels around ice packs.
- Make some frozen treats.
- Dog Sherbet: Freeze chunks of dog safe fruit like bananas, watermelon or cantaloupe, then blend it with plain yogurt. Mix 2 cups of fruit to 1/4 cup of yogurt. You can either serve as is, refreeze in treat molds or ice cube trays, or stuff a Kong to serve immediately or refreeze for later.
- Speaking of stuffing Kongs--stuff it with any of the usual treats you might stuff in your Kong and freeze it. Foods and treats that work great frozen include unsweetened applesauce, plain yogurt, pumpkin puree and unsweetened peanut butter. Just remember if you’re using something liquid, to plug the bottom with something solid, like a treat.
- Though the idea of meat flavoured popsicles might not seem appetizing to you, dogs are huge fans! Freeze low sodium meat broth in an ice cube tray or treat molds and add some treats, bits of meat or cooked dog safe veggies like sweet potato, peas, carrots or broccoli.
By making some small adjustments to your routine and introducing a few new experiences, you can keep your dog happy, healthy and cool this summer so you can both enjoy the great weather to its fullest!