When we humans begin to swelter, we (usually!) have options: Grab a cool drink, crank up the A/C, or make a beeline for the nearest swimming hole. But for our beloved canine companions, it’s not so easy.
“Dogs pant to evaporate moisture and cool themselves,” says K.C. Theisen, director of pet care issues for the Humane Society of the United States. “But panting isn’t very effective in hot, humid weather. So their body heat builds, which can cause their temperature to quickly spike.” And heat stroke is serious business. According to Theisen, it can rapidly impact your pet and result in permanent brain or organ damage — and even death.
So with the dog days of summer upon us, now is the perfect time to think about helping Fido stay fresh. Here are Theisen’s favorite tips, along with important things you should know about keeping your dog safe in the summer heat.
An empty car is no place for a canine
“Never ever leave your dog in the car,” Theisen says, “not even for a minute — even with air conditioning or cracked windows.” She explains that it’s simply too risky, which is why you should leave your pup at home (in the air conditioning), or make sure your errands allow them to come out of the car and stay with you the entire time. For a fun diversion, stop at a pet store that serves up doggie ice cream.
Serve plenty of chilled aqua
Your dog will naturally lap up more water in warmer weather, which is why Theisen recommends checking their water bowl several times a day to make sure they have plenty of cool, fresh water. Try something like this nifty Polar Bowl, which features a gel core that keeps your pet’s water cold for hours.
Get creative with the ice-cube tray
Theisen points out that dogs really love frozen treats in the summertime, so why not have a little fun with it? “Try getting some ice-cube trays — novelty trays are really fun — and drop in a few of their favorite small treats or kibble. Fill the trays with water, freeze them, and — voila! — a challenging, cooling treat,” she says. You can also do this with peanut butter, or canned pet food (if your dog eats it) and a little water.
Switch up the exercise routine
Change can be fun, right? Theisen recommends taking your dog out earlier or later in the day (after the sun has gone down and the pavement has cooled off). She also advises reducing the intensity of your dog’s activities, such as going for a leash walk instead of throwing the Frisbee.
Break out the kiddie pool
“Kiddie pools are a great option for water-loving dogs,” says Theisen. But if your dog despises all things related to bathing, consider a gel- or water-filled mat. This Comfort Cooling Gel Pet Mat comes in a variety of sizes, so you can find one that fits your four-legged friend best.
Don’t rely on fans
While fans may seem like an effective way to keep your dog cool, they rarely are. “A fan cools us off by evaporating sweat from our bodies,” Theisen explains, “but dogs only sweat on the bottoms of their feet, so a fan doesn’t do much good.”
Keep a close eye on your dog
Is there anything more enjoyable than staring at your sweet pup’s face? This is especially critical if you own a puppy or an elderly, overweight or short-snouted dog like a boxer or pug — all of which can easily become overburdened in hot weather. Be on the lookout for signs of heat stroke, which Theisen says may include lethargy, heavy panting, labored breathing, salivating, drooling and/or vomiting. She adds their eyes may appear glazed, dry or “spaced out,” too.
“If you notice any of these signs, move your dog into the air conditioning right away, or into the shade if you can’t get indoors,” Theisen says. “Then head to the vet to get your dog checked out as soon as possible.”
Have a plan for power outages
Finally, Theisen advises pet owners to have a plan in case of power outages or weather-related emergencies. “Be sure there’s somewhere safe — and cool — you can take your pet,” she says. “Know where you’re going and what supplies you’ll need — before the situation becomes dire.”