Summer has arrived and our furry friends are definitely feeling the heat. Dogs do not have as many options as humans when it comes to cooling off on a hot day, so it is up to us to make sure they are safe and comfortable when temperatures rise.
Aside from obviously never leaving your dogs in the car on a hot day, here are thirteen ways you can help your pups beat the heat.
1. Know the signs of dehydration and heatstroke.
If your dog is experiencing any of the following, take them inside, cool them off with a fan or wet towels, and call your vet.
2. Make sure they have cool, clean, fresh water.
Before you head out for the day, make sure your dogs have at least two large water bowls with cool, fresh water. If you have multiple dogs, you may need more bowls; just make sure you have more than one option in case they knock one over or empty it before you get home. Make sure the bowls are in the shade, and you can add ice cubes to help keep them cooler longer.
3. Bring water and a water bowl everywhere you go.
If you are leaving home with your dogs, make sure to bring water and a water bowl with you. There are many portable options available, such as collapsible water bowls or water bottles with an attached receptacle for drinking. Offer your dogs water regularly while you are out.
4. Check the ground temperature before walking them.
If the dirt, sand, concrete or asphalt is too hot for you to walk on barefoot, it is too hot for your dogs to walk on as well. Wait until the sun goes down and the ground cools off or purchase protective booties to help keep their paws safe.
5. Make sure they have plenty of shade.
If your dogs need to be outside, make sure they have plenty of shaded options where they can lie down and cool off. If you do not have a covered patio or trees to do the trick, inexpensive shade sails are a great way to quickly add shade to your backyard or dog run. Also keep in mind that doghouses can get hot and stuffy on hot days, so while a doghouse is great for protecting your dogs from the rain and colder temperatures, they are not always the best shade options for your pups. You can also purchase a canopy for your dog’s bed to make sure their favorite spot to hang out is in the shade.
6. Keep them inside with fans or air conditioning.
If at all possible, keep your dogs inside during the hottest parts of the day. They will appreciate cooler temperatures and better air flow from fans, swamp coolers or air conditioning units just as much as you do. If you do not have central air conditioning, you can purchase one or more inexpensive fans and place them in areas where your dogs like to hang out.
If you are using fans to help keep your dogs (and you) cool, make sure they have grates with small openings to protect your dogs or other pets from the fan blades. You can also place a bowl of ice behind the fan to cool off the circulating air even more.
7. Offer them cooler places to lie down.
Save the fluffy dog beds for winter (or cooler summer nights) and opt for cots. Raised cots allow air to flow beneath the bed, which will help keep your dogs cooler in summer. Place the cot in the shade and, if possible, avoid placing it on concrete or asphalt. Some cots come with attached canopies to make sure your dogs can enjoy shade throughout the day.
8. Offer your dogs frozen treats.
Frozen treats made just for dogs are widely available at pet stores and can help your dogs cool off on hot days. If you don’t happen to have any store-bought, frozen treats on hand, you can also try offering them plain ice cubes or you can make frozen treats with broth and water or blended berries and plain yogurt.
9. Give them a wading pool or swimming pool.
Some dogs love splashing and playing in water, which makes this an easy way to help them cool off on a hot day. Depending on the size of your dogs, you could use something as small as a dishpan or something as large as a horse trough. Plastic kiddie pools do the job nicely as well. And, of course, there are plenty of products available online that are specifically sold as swimming pools for dogs. Some of these are even shaped like bones. Personally, I use an inexpensive, low-walled stock tank.
If you decide to help your dogs stay cool in summer with a swimming pool, remember that they should never be left unattended while swimming or playing in the water. Also, when it is time to empty the pool, grab a bucket and use the water to irrigate ornamental landscaping so that the water is not wasted.
10. Avoid strenuous activities in the afternoon.
Whenever possible, schedule your walks or play time earlier or later in the day when the temperature is cooler. If you have working dogs, make sure they have access to water and shade, and give them breaks throughout the day to let them cool off. If possible, schedule herding and other strenuous activities in the morning or evening.
11. Brush them often.
While it is tempting to shave dogs to help them stay cool in summer, with many breeds, it is actually best to leave their coat in place, which will help keep them cool and protect their skin from sunburn. However, you do want to groom them regularly to remove tangles and mats. If you are considering shaving your dog for summer, talk to our vet first to make sure it is the best way to help them stay cool in hot weather.
12. Offer them a wet towel, ice pack or jar of ice.
When I was younger, we used to put mason jars filled with ice in the rabbit pens so that they could wrap around them and keep cool on hot days. This also works for smaller dogs who might appreciate a jar of ice to wrap around or lie near to help them stay cool. Alternatively, you can fill a hot water bottle with ice and cool water or you can offer them an ice pack wrapped in a towel. If you don’t have any ice handy, wet a towel with cold water, wring out the excess and lay it in a shady spot where they like to hang out or on top of a raised cot for extra cooling.
As a side note here: If your dog is showing signs of heatstroke, do not use ice to cool them off. This can cool their body temperature too quickly and cause them to go into shock.
13. Expand their wardrobe.
You can help keep your dogs cool is summer with cooling bandanas or cooling vests. Using these options does not mean that you can hit the hiking trail in 100-degree weather, but they will help your furry friends stay cooler if they have to be outside on hot days.
While you are expanding their wardrobe, you might also look into a visor or sunglasses. These can also help keep your dogs comfortable in summer.
Side note: Dogs primarily cool themselves off through their respiratory system. If you have snub-nosed dogs, such as bulldogs, Shih Tzus and pugs, their smaller nasal passages make it more difficult for them to release heat through panting. You will need to be even more diligent to make sure your snub-nosed dogs are safe and comfortable on hot days.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
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