It was a long, cold winter and, now that summer has arrived, it’s time to get outside and bask in the sunshine!
But before you go joyfully running out that door, put on your sunblock. And don’t forget about the effects the warmer weather has on your canine companion.
“Dogs Die in Hot Cars” isn’t just the name of an indie rock band — it’s a stark warning about what can happen if you underestimate the power of the sun’s heat.
Here are five ways to ensure your pup has a healthy and happy summer.
1. Practice Focused Attention
Keep an eye on your dog’s habits, and watch out for non-verbal communications. You probably know when your dog is comfortable and happy — his tail is up and/or wagging, his eyes are bright, and he’s active and energetic. On the flip side, a droopy tail, excessive panting, labored breathing, and disorientation are signs that your pup is tired, overheated, and/or dehydrated.
The minute you see warning signs, act on the problem. Remember, dogs will just keep going and going until they collapse, so you have to know when they’ve had enough. Be sure to always have water on hand, and give it to your dog regularly. Take breaks and lie down in the shade. Pour water on your dog’s body or let him splash, frolic, and swim in nearby ponds and lakes. If you take your dog to the same places over and over, they’ll learn how and where to get relief for themselves — but always be prepared to offer and provide that relief, especially in new and unfamiliar areas.
2. Know Your Dog’s Physiology
We all know dogs can’t “sweat it out” like humans can. When your dog gets hot, he pants to cool down. Dogs also release heat through blood vessels in their faces, ears, and feet. If high temps, humidity, or intense activity overpower those bodily functions,hyperthermia or heat stroke can occur. Pay special attention to this if your dog has a compromised upper airway — whether it was an acquired condition, or an inherent one (bulldogs, for instance).
Again, water and shade are your friends. Don’t think you can crank up your car’s air conditioning and cool Fido down. Dogs don’t work that way. A wet towel or cooling body wrap, and feeding your dog a pet-safe frozen treat will help chill your dog’s head and ears. And don’t forget those paws and their delicate pads. Stay on the grass when you can, and if you must be on pavement — check it out! If you can’t hold your hand on the asphalt for 15 seconds, it’s too hot for your dog.
3. Did We Mention Water?
OK, OK, you know how important water is — for you, your dog, and every other living thing. It’s the essence of life. So … make sure water is always available for your four-legged friend! Your dog needs more water than you do to replace the moisture lost in panting, the panting that removes moisture from their lungs in their cool-down process.
If you’re at home, make sure water bowls are readily-available and always filled. Add ice too. Hoses, sprinklers, and kiddie pools are fun ways you can keep your pup cool and hydrated. If you’re at the park or on the go, have plenty of bottles of water with you, and offer a drink often. If your dog doesn’t want to drink, pour some water on his head or feet!
4. Timing is Everything
Sunrise, sunset. On those hot summer days, plan your outings early or late in the day — never at midday. During these times, the temperature is a few degrees lower and the sun is at more of an angle, not directly beating down on you and your dog. Not only that, the pavement will be cooler.
Also, overheating and dehydration can be exacerbated if your dog suffers from seasonal allergies, so keep an eye on the daily pollen count. Pollen is generally lowest on cool days and after a rainfall. Peak pollen counts occur between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., so again, the earlier or later the better for summertime fun.
5. Seriously, Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Car
Everyone — especially the dog lover — knows it. But it bears repeating. NEVER leave your dog in a hot car. Even if it’s “not that hot.” Even if the windows are open. Even if you’re parked in the shade. Even if you just need to run a quick errand or “pop out for a moment.” Never, ever, ever.