As the temperatures rise, humans can become miserable. We sweat, our clothing can be uncomfortable, and we might pray for even a slight breeze in the midday heat. Our dogs can have an even worse time, considering they are rarely in control of their environment the way we are. Since our dogs are not in control of the thermostat, how can we help make sure they are comfortable and safe in the summer heat?
Protect your dog from heartworm, fleas and ticks, and make sure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations with a trip to the vet. Heartworm has been linked to mosquito bites, and fleas and ticks are common in the warmer months. Make sure your dog is protected and keep the regimen consistent. Be aware of the signs of dehydration and heatstroke and ask you vet about the proper steps to take if you suspect your dog might be experiencing a heat-related problem. Excessive panting, drooling, listlessness, and trouble breathing are signs of distress and need to be treated immediately.
Dogs should never be left in the car, but especially not during the day when temperatures inside the car can reach twenty degrees more than the outside air. Even with the windows down, dogs can become victims of heat exhaustion, and open windows pose a threat to even the most obedient of dogs. One squirrel sighting and your dog could be long gone by the time you return. Fresh water should always be available for your dog, and try to avoid water found outside. Water that collects near parks, roads, and walking areas can contain invisible insecticides, pesticides, and other poisons. For your dog’s safety, bring fresh water and make sure your dog can access it frequently. While walks and playtime should not go away just because it’s summer, take precautions and alter your routines for the season. Active outside playtime should be limited to no more than fifteen to thirty minutes at a time. The temperatures are cooler in the morning and evening (the hottest between 11 AM and 4 PM) and are more appropriate times for walks and play. When preparing for a walk, test the concrete with the back of your bare hand. If you cannot leave it on the concrete for more than thirty seconds, the ground is far too hot for your dog’s paws. A trip to the groomer’s may be in order as well. Trimming the fur down to an inch or longer will keep the fur as protection against the sun without adding to your dog’s body heat. Brush the fur frequently to release the undercoat and keep the fur from becoming matted, heavy, and otherwise hotter than necessary.
Some breeds handle heat better than others due to physical characteristics such as snout shape, fur type and color, and individual health problems. Ill dogs, elderly, and very young dogs should not spend much time in direct sunlight and outside in the heat. Breeds that do not handle the heat very well include Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Shih Tzus, and Bulldogs. However, there are many breeds that can handle the heat (although precautions should be taken regardless of breed). These include the Great Dane, Border Collie, Labrador Retriever, Doberman, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Australian Cattle Dog, and German Shorthaired Pointer.