12 tips to keep your dog safe in the heat

12 Tips to Help Dogs with the Heat

In Dog Behavior, Dog CPR, dog daycare owner, dog training, dog walker, Dogs, pet cpr, Pet Death, Pet First Aid, Pet Industry, Pet Rescues, pet sitter, Summer pet safety, Travel with pets, Uncategorized, veterinarian by Cara Armour2 Comments

Fun in the Sun Has Begun!

For most of us summer is here and fun in the sun has begun! This can be a very amazing time with our pets as the daylight remains longer and we can enjoy the outside with our furry friends.

Dog’s Can’t Sweat It

Humans have a relatively advanced way of cooling their core unlike our 4-legged fur-covered companions. We have the ability to secrete moisture in the form of sweat that is then evaporated and thus cooling to our entire body. While it is true that dogs do sweat through the pads of their feet, the amount of moisture is very inefficient – leaving really just the tongue to help move air across it to get the same affect as sweating is to us. Evolution has sort of failed our friends – they pant which passes air over their wet tongue, which causes evaporation and a cooling affect just not as much as it would if their entire body could pant!

Don’t Let Them down by Letting Them Heat Up

Given their inefficient cooling mechanisms, it is so paramount that we don’t let them down by letting them heat up. If a dog’s temperature exceeds 102.5 they are getting into the dangerous affects of a fever, which if not brought down – or worse go up – can cause seizures, organ failure, brain damage and eventually death. The 106 degree range gets into the super danger zone and time will not be on their side. An elevated temperature caused by high external temperatures, stress or a general inability to regulate the animal’s core body temperature is the condition of heat stroke.
Prior to reaching heat stroke dogs and even cats will achieve heat exhaustion, an aptly named condition where the body becomes literally exhausted from heat – it lacks the ability to be able to cool itself. If left unmanaged, heat exhaustion leads to heat stroke and heat stroke will lead to death.

Also keep in mind that while you might avoid heat exhaustion and stroke as a general condition, sunburn and skin burns like burned foot pads are also other issues to always make your self aware of for your pet’s safety.
Below are 12 tips on how to help avoid getting anywhere near heat exhaustion, heat stroke or other heat related injuries to your pup.

12 Tips to Help Dogs Cope with the Heat – plus a bonus tip at the end

1. When It’s Hot Out, Don’t Go Out

Sounds pretty simple and it is. You might need to change your routine from walking the pup after you get home from work to getting up early and doing so. You’ll both benefit in life but in general the morning time is much cooler than the after work hours when the sun has beat the ground, is still high in the sky and now heat radiates from the ground – you get hit with heat from all angles. I’ve also noticed that the bugs tend to be late risers so while you can wait until dusk, you’ll be walking with some unwelcomed pesky friends.

2. Keep off the Hot Surfaces

keep to the shade

As with the earlier walk in the cooler mornings, any walk at any time of the day should be on surfaces that have not been baking in the sun. Pavement, even cement can get pretty toasty. If you are uncertain how hot the ground is, place your hand palm down and hold it there for 5 seconds. If you can’t, your pet shouldn’t be walking on it. Stick to grass, mulched areas or shaded paths. Pads can burn quickly and if the ground is that hot, the heat radiating off of it will not help in avoiding heat exhaustion.

3. Fresh Drink of Water

Whether out for a walk or doing some yard work with Baxter by your side – make certain you have fresh water available. I made the mistake of taking my dog for a long walk on a summer vacation on the Jersey coastline and she got so hot we had to stop by a store and ask for a cup of water. Bad call on my part, while I felt hydrated she was not. With their inefficient cooling systems, cold water is a great way to help keep their temperature down.

water for dogs

4. Water, Water Everywhere

If you pooch likes puddles make them for them. Sprinklers, playing in the hose and baby pools can be great resources for cooling and fun. For safety never leave them unattended around any pool and make certain they do not drink chlorinated pool water. If you’re done with the baby pool for the day, dump the water to avoid creating a mosquito breeding pond.

dog in baby pool

5. Provide Shade

Shady areas especially with good breezes can be great ways to stay cool or a great place to cool down. My dogs love to crawl under our large forsythia bush and dig into the cool dirt to take a nap on a hot day. Dogs may dig in the dirt and roll in it to get cooler, you can save your yard if you provide the coolness for them, otherwise they’ll take matters into their own paws.

dog cools in dirt

6. Adequate Airflow

I previously mentioned in my blog post about dogs in hot cars that even with the windows cracked there is not enough airflow to keep a dog cool, not to mention how fast the car heats up. Since dogs can only pass air over their tongue to cool themselves, more airflow is needed for them than for us, we can also fan ourselves to help the sweat evaporate faster. Yes, they can pant which makes the air pass over kicker but they need lots of fresh air that is not hot to help them cool. Fans are great ideas.


7. Open Windows and Doors Leave You Open for Problems

While flowing air is a must, open doors and windows can leave your pets able to escape. Remember a screen will not hold back a child, a dog or even a cat so an open window even with the screen in, is still just an open window. Cross breezes are fantastic to have but make certain the windows open are not in reach of a curious canine.

8. Check Their Tags

I know, what does an ID tag have to do with heat? Well chances are you will be out and about more with your pup and that increases their chances of getting away. You might bring them over to your friend’s house for a cookout and while the yard is fenced – the gate was left open. Unless your pup knows how to use GPS – getting back home could be quite the conundrum. Up-to-date ID tags with your cell phones are a must-have no matter the season but statistically, you’re more likely to have lost a pet in the summer – especially on the 5th of July which I will discuss in a future post.

9. Leave Them at Home

I know I said that going for a ride is one of those activities that you can do with your dog right now, and please consider it a stimulating activity – however, if its hot, even if you don’t plan to make any stops – please leave them at home. I was just on the highway the other day when it was 94 degrees and I saw a couple with an arctic breed stopped on the side of the road. It appeared their car had broken down. The police and tow truck where there but that dog looked hot. Don’t put your pooch in that situation. Even if your car is sound and you avoid an accident, the temptation to stop and buy something from the farm stand is high and so is the heat. One minute can turn into 10 and that can equal 20 degrees or more increase in temperature inside of the car, where your dog sits waiting and now baking.

10. Know Where the Nearest ER Vet is ALWAYS

Whether its for your own home or if you are traveling to your relatives with Rex in tow, make sure you know where to go if something goes wrong. Thankfully Google is pretty helpful but look this information up before you hit the road incase your cell service isn’t so great. Write it down with an old fashioned pen and paper and stash it in the glove box. Make a printed list if your handwriting is as bad as mine for various places you go, but never leave home without knowing where the closest 24/7 ER veterinary hospital is.

11. Be Able to Recognize When They Are Hot

Panting because they are hot and uncontrollably panting and walking like someone that has just taken 6 shots of whiskey are two different things but they can happen very quickly. A dog’s temperature can rise quickly, even on what seems like a cool day. Stress can cause the body to fail in temperature regulation. We’re here to help you help your pets. Dr. Bobbi Conner, the ER veterinary instructor in our ProPetHero course lets you know exactly what to look for and what to do should you suspect that your pet is hot. When you power up the laptop or tablet to make the list of the closest ER vet hospitals to where you will be staying, have a gander at how to recognize heat stroke and what you can do to help your pup cope.

12. Make Sure Your Pet Sitter Knows

While many of us pet sitters pride ourselves on being professionally prepared in any situation with your pet – don’t assume all know exactly what to do. Arm your sitter with information so they have to think less and can help your pet more. Tell them where the nearest ER vet hospital is, where they can find towels and the hose etc. Over-communicate for their sake and it makes it easier for the pet care professional. Also, make certain they are certified to handle emergencies.

Signs of Heat Related Issues

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are dangerous and super slippery slopes for your pup.  Heat exhaustion and stroke symptoms can include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, rapid panting, stumbling while walking, lethargy, thick saliva, reddening of the skin inside the ears and gum color can turn bright red or pale if they are heading into shock.

Handling The Stress of Heat

The goal is to drop their body temperature but SLOWLY! Too quickly and you can cause a great shock to their system. Never use ice but do use cool water. Soak towels in hose water and cover your dog in them paying attention to their neck and groin where the least hair is and the greatest amount of skin exposure.

Hose water is great but remember it might have been sitting in the sun so check the temp before applying to your pup. You can bring them inside a cool building, head to the basement even and get a fan on them. You can provide them with water but if you have the signs above, they wont drink and they don’t seem “with it” – you’re going to the vet.

Any pet that cannot cool himself off is at risk for heat stroke, but some breeds and dogs with certain conditions are more susceptible. Heart disease, obesity, young puppies, senior dogs, or dogs with breathing problems are at a at higher risk. For these animals even normal activities in any heat can be harmful. Dogs with short muzzles (called brachiocephalic) – like French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, Shih Tzus, Pugs or Bulldogs – have a harder time regulating the body heat since the shorter nose prevents the air from acclimating to their body temperature before passing by the brain. Instead, hot air comes in and without a longer snout to help it adjust to the dog’s body temperature – it stay hot. Arctic breeds or those with double or triple coats are less efficient at cooling as well like Samoyeds, Huskies, Bernese Mountain Dogs etc. DO NOT shave these types of coats down, the longer guard hairs help air pass down to the skin to keep them cool. If you shave them as is sadly popular, you just knitted your dog a sweater by making the hairs the same length and tight against the body. They may look cooler and stay cleaner but this is not healthy. Keeping them brushed and their undercoat thin is your best protection against the heat.

If your dog has overheated and even if they seem to be recovering, take them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Dehydration is just one complication of heat stroke that the veterinarian will need to address. The first priority will be lowering the body temperature to a safe range, and the animal may be given fluids and/or oxygen. A pet brought in for heat stroke should be monitored for shock, respiratory distress, kidney failure and heart abnormalities, and treated accordingly.

Play in the Sun

This is not to deter anyone from enjoying the beauty of the summer with their best friend. I just wanted to make you aware of some things you can do to enjoy the time safely so we aren’t cutting their already short lives any shorter.

sunset with your dog

Bonus Tip

For those of your with white short-coated dogs or dogs with white markings particularly on their nose and ears, consider a PET SAFE sunscreen. These areas can get sunburned. As an owner of Boxers this is a concern for our white-faced friends. Do not use human sunscreen as it is not balanced for their skin and most importantly – not safe for ingestion by licking.


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