The Heat is On – Keeping your Dog Cool!
I am writing this to you from Miami as I enjoy the hospitality of Kiki Hamann and her wonderful husband Alex at “The Maison”. Why am I here you ask? Well, at the risk of tooting my own horn, I was nominated for, not just one but two Dog of Hamann Awards!
I will write a post on the entire experience – THAT is a promise!It has been magical to say the least. but … I must get back to plot!
Miami is HOT! As a little dog use to the North I must admit it is always a bit of a shock when you get off the plane and out the doors of the airport and breathe in that first wonderful, humid hot air filled with exotic smells.
I do well enough in the heat – must be my Mexican origins – but still you can’t be too careful. So here are some things we think you should keep in mind when traveling to a hot destination…or simply coping with your own hot climate when and if it applies.
Note: Remember that spring can be just as hot as summer! Just because it’s spring (or fall) don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Many people who are aware of summer heat hazards fail to take the same precautions in spring, when their dogs may still be wearing their thick winter coats.
Not all dogs are created the same!
Be aware that not all dogs handle heat in the same way. Larger dogs with rounder bodies build up heat faster. Dogs lose heat through evaporation from their nasal passages and tongue. As such dogs with flat faces are less able to lose heat. As a rule, the bigger the dog and the flatter the face, the more prone they are to overheating. Overweight and old dogs have an even greater risk.
I discussed different types of fur in a previous post. It’s a myth that shaving a dog’s coat makes him or her cooler. Shaving it to the skin can make a dog vulnerable to sunburn, do brush as much undercoat as you can out, and be sure no solid mats are there to trap heat and moisture
Exercise: Every summer veterinarians see far too many dogs that suffer from heat stroke from well meaning owners that want to exercise their dog and … take them running or for a good game of fetch. Dogs overheat before people do so even though you may be just a little warm, your dog can be lethally overheated.
- First thing in the morning or late at night is the best time to exercise your dog in warm weather
- When possible exercise where they can cool off in water
- Beware of hot asphalt
The Car: Studies show that the temperature inside a car can heat to lethal temperatures within 30 minutes even if the weather outside is relatively cool. Regardless of outside air temperature, cars heat up at a similar rate – gaining 80 percent of their final temperature within 30 minutes. Cars that start at a comfortable 72 degrees F (22 degrees C), for example, soar to a deadly 117 degrees F (47 degrees C) after 60 minutes in the sun. Cracking the windows scarcely affects the temperature inside.
Nobody keeps statistics on dog deaths from being left in cars, but about 30 to 40 children die in parked cars each year. Considering that in North America dogs aren’t allowed in most places children are, and that dogs overheat more quickly than children, it’s likely that hundreds of dogs die in closed cars every year.
Cars break down – so be prepared for that and the potential long wait for assistance.
- Always have water with you.
- Let your dog get out of the car (if safe to do so) and keep your pet on a leash and by your side.
- Offer water to drink
- Pour some water over your pet and soak your dog
- Sit your companion on a wet towel
- Bring a cooler with ice and a small car-battery-powered fan – air blowing over your dog’s wet fur cools your pet just as your sweat in a breeze cools you.
The Home: If your dog is left inside, you may need to run the air conditioning, or at least a fan. If the weather is very hot, you may need to find a way to guard against electrical outages while you’re away. Ottawa is prone to brown outs during the hottest months as the electrical companies try to keep up with the demand. Some pets have died when the electricity, and thus air conditioning, unexpectedly went off during the day.
If you must leave your dog in the backyard keep in mind that weather is unpredictable; summer storms and higher than predicted temperatures are a real threat to your pet.
- Be sure your pet has a place that’s shady all day long
- Make sure your dog as access to clean cool water
- Have a neighbor or someone you trust check in on your pet
- Buy a kiddy pool and fill it with water so your dog can soak in it and cool of
- If possible, aim a fan at your pet from a sheltered place so there is a constant breeze
The day might come when you have done all you could and your pet still overheated. What should you do then?
Cooling a Hot Dog:
- Don’t plunge an overheated dog into ice water; this causes the peripheral blood vessels to contract, actually trapping the overheated blood at the body’s core — just where it does most harm. Instead, cool the dog slowly by placing your pet cool water, or by draping with wet towels and aiming a fan at your dog.
- Offer him plenty of cool water.
- If you have a thermometer, cool him until his temperature reaches 103 degrees F (39 degrees C), then stop, as it will continue to decline. As soon as you have your dog cooling, race to the veterinarian. Even if your pet appears to have recovered, some delayed but deadly effects can still occur even days later.
Although swimming is a great exercise in warm weather, make sure your dog can swim first! Some breeds, such as bulldogs, French bulldogs and Pekingese, have the swimming ability of cinderblocks.
Even good swimmers can drown in backyard pools if they don’t know where the steps are to climb out. Provide a dog ramp at pools and off docks near rivers and lakes.
Dogs, especially light-skinned dogs like me, can get sunburn and melanoma. If you dog likes to sun worship, watch them carefully. DO NOT use sunscreen on your pet where they can lick it off it is highly toxic.
One benefit of the booming pet industry is that there are now many items designed specifically to help your dog remain cool. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Cooling Dog Bandana: This item cools your dog, just like an ice pack on your neck or forehead might. It is very easy to use, relatively inexpensive and easy to find, reusable and washable. This is a great item to have as a spare in your car glove compartment!
- Cooling Dog Bed: Used indoors or outdoors. These beds have tremendous cooling abilities without actual refrigeration. They mimic cold tiled flooring by absorbing heat from your dog and releasing it into the surrounding air. Easy to use, durable and more comfortable than the floor so dogs generally do choose them of their own volition.
- Kiddy Pool: Easy to find, inexpensive and most dogs (not I) love water. It is an excellent way to stay cool on those very hot summer days. Make sure you supervise puppies and toy breeds that could drown in one.
- The Hydro Bone: New to me – I have only seen it once but it looks very interesting. I do not know what the smallest size is. I imagine it must be like a refreshing Popsicle. The hydro bone features a spongy center covered in flexible rubber. You simply soak the bone in cool water, freeze it, and then give it to your dog for a refreshing chew.
- Dog Ice Cream: Our local pet boutique (WAG) sells amazing dog ice cream all summer long! It’s wonderful stuff and I highly recommend it. You can even make your own!
How do you keep cool during the dog days of summer?