Keeping Your Dog Safe in the Summer Heat
Ah, those lazy days of summer—or not! Even though the weather has become a lot warmer, don’t allow your dog to become a couch potato. He still needs exercise, although it’s essential to take some extra precautions to keep him healthy and safe no matter how high the mercury rises.
Don’t overdo it : During the summer months, it’s especially important to take things slowly with your dog to prevent him from overheating. Keep exercise sessions short and sweet—a shorter walk outdoors followed by a break and then a play session indoors may be just the right mix. And on especially hot days, try to exercise indoors as much as possible to keep your dog cool and comfortable.
Avoid the hottest part of the day: In general, the sun is at its peak between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so it’s best to exercise your dog in the early morning or evening, when temperatures are cooler.
Provide lots of water : Did you know that your dog’s body comprises approximately 70 percent water? Water is an essential nutrient that keeps his cells functioning properly; without it, his body will shut down. While exercising, a dog sweats primarily through his paw pads, so it’s crucial that he have access to cool, fresh water at all times to replace what he’s expending. If he’s playing outdoors, place a water bowl in a shady area to ensure easy access.
Respect your dog’s breed: Certain breeds, like the Pug and Bulldog, are considered “brachycephalic,” which means that they have flattened heads and shortened muzzles. How does this affect exercise in warm weather? The structure of their faces makes it harder for these types of breeds to breathe, so they are extra sensitive to prolonged, strenuous activity and more prone to heatstroke.
Apply sunscreen: It may seem odd, but dogs can become sunburned, just as humans do! Light-colored and shorthaired breeds are especially susceptible. For the best protection, apply a pet-specific sunscreen to your dog’s ears, nose, muzzle, and anywhere you see pink skin. If your dog is light-colored or shorthaired, spray him all over with a pet-safe sunscreen.
Supervise all activities: No matter which activities you and your dog enjoy, supervise him at all times. For example, swimming can be a fun summertime sport, and many dogs enjoy the water immensely—but the swimming pool can be a dangerous place. Make sure that the pool is fenced to prevent your pooch from accidentally falling in, and install stairs to make getting in and out of the water a breeze.
Observe your dog’s condition: Whenever you and your dog are outdoors in warm weather, watch for signs of overexertion or heatstroke. A dog with heatstroke may display symptoms such as rapid breathing, a pounding heartbeat, and high body temperature. Call the vet immediately if your dog experiences this emergency medical condition. Your best bet is to prevent the problem in the first place by limiting strenuous outdoor exercise on warm days and by never leaving your pup in poorly ventilated areas.
Consider “summer-friendly” products: There are all sorts of products on the market to help keep your dog cool while exercising. If you’re taking him on a walk, for example, you can purchase booties or a lanolin-enriched remedy to protect his paw pads from scorching pavement. Some companies also make cooling vests, which use chilled water to cause an evaporative cooling effect.
The dog days of summer don’t have to be long and miserable. By following just a few exercise safety tips, you and your dog can beat the heat with no problem!