It is summer — It is hot! It is humid! We all feel it, especially our animals!
When humans get hot, they shed clothes, go swimming or stay inside in the air conditioning. But many people think it is fine to leave their pet outside in the backyard all day long with a little bowl of water! Or they take their dog out for a long walk or run during the middle of the day!
That is a recipe for disaster. Dogs simply cannot handle keeping their bodies cool when the temps run high and heat becomes overwhelming!
How Animals Keep Their Cool
When humans get hot, they sweat all over. But dogs have only two ways they can sweat — by panting and through their paws. And if your dog has a short nose, it is even harder for the dog to cool down. So if you push your pet beyond his limits in hot weather or leave your pet outside with little shade and no cool water, you are asking for big trouble.
Cats will seek and find cool places to stay out of the heat — under decks or bushes where there is good shade and the ground is cooler. But dogs don’t always do that. And leaving your dog alone with a baby pool to play in is never a good idea.
What Are the Signs of Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion?
A dog’s tongue will be hanging way out and he will be panting furiously to try to cool down. The animal is in obvious distress, collapses and can’t get up. If the dog is unconscious, do not offer any water because that could cause aspiration pneumonia. At this point, it is critical to lower body temperature before it does brain damage and damage to internal organs.
Get the dog to a shady area. If you have a hose, spray down the dog – not with freezing water – and be careful not to get any water into the animal’s mouth. Place an ice pack on back of the neck and top of the head (a bag of frozen veggies works well).
If the dog is conscious, you can bring her inside and place in the shower, running cool water over the dog. You should also massage dog’s legs to increase circulation. Offer some room temperature water with a pinch of salt to restore minerals to body. Another option for rehydration is Pedialyte®.
Once stabilized, take the pet to the vet. She may need extra care for shock prevention, fluids to replace electrolytes and a cooling blanket. The vet can monitor your pet to be sure she is recovering and not showing any signs of permanent damage to organs or brain.
Keeping Outside Dogs Safe in the Summer Heat
If you must leave your pet outside during the heat of the day, set up a shady place for him on the north side of your home, away from blazing sun from south and west sides. Be sure to leave plenty of water or have a continuous feed water dish attached to your outdoor water system. This will guarantee constant cool water for your pet.
Some dogs are more susceptible to heat stroke and heat exhaustion:
- Dogs with an existing medical condition such as chronic breathing problems and/or heart problems
- An elderly dog
- A very young puppy whose system is not mature enough to process heat
Best Practice for Helping Dogs Beat the Heat
Your best bet is to keep pets inside the house during the hottest temperatures of the day — not in the garage since that enclosed space can get dangerously hot! If you are worried about accidents, get a crate to confine the pet or block off a portion of your home — in the kitchen or laundry room — so any accidents can be isolated and easily cleaned up.
I’ve written about this in the past, but if it saves one dog’s life, it bears repeating — DON’T LEAVE YOUR PET IN A CLOSED CAR! And “No,” not even with the windows CRACKED!! Interior temps with windows cracked can rise to well over 100 degrees in a very short time and you could return to a dead dog. A good rule of thumb — if you are hot and uncomfortable, so is your pet.
Whenever possible, take your dogs out for their long walk very early in the morning or well after sundown. Consider carrying a plant mister with you on long walks and be sure to always have drinking water handy — for you AND your pet.
Pet Sitters to the Rescue!
If you are going to be away from home all day, an excellent option is to hire a professional pet sitting service such as Pet Pleasers, Inc. who travels to your home and provides in-home pet care and TLC. A pet sitter offers a bathroom break, play time, fresh water and will return your dog to the crate or wherever you keep your pet when you’re at work or away for the day.
Hiring a pet sitter for a mid-day dog walk gives you peace of mind AND your pet will thank you!
Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.