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How to Protect Your Dog In The Heat
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Whether you live in a place with all four seasons or summer all year round, hot weather can be uncomfortable and potentially unsafe for people and dogs. Humidity often makes high temperatures even more unbearable, and the increased risk of parasites threatens the safety and wellness of dogs and their owners.
We’ve compiled a list of ways to protect your pets in the heat and keep them comfortable while battling summer temperatures. This post will also inform you about the potential warning signs of heat stroke, dehydration, and general heat exhaustion in dogs.
- Provide Shade Outdoors
- Walk Your Dog On The Grass
- Use Dog-Safe Sunscreen
- Limit Vigorous Exercise
- Keep An Eye On Certain Breeds
- Use Heartworm, Flea, And Tick Preventatives
- Groom Your Dog
- Monitor Play In The Water
- Ensure Your Dog Drinks Water
- Avoid Leaving Your Dog In A Parked Car
- Know The Signs Of Heatstroke
- Dog Heat Safety: FAQs
- Final Notes
1. Provide Shade Outdoors
While you can’t keep your dog inside on warm days, taking certain precautions when going for your daily summer walks is important. Whenever your dog is outside, ensure they have access to plenty of shade and water. Trees and tarps are ideal for providing shade, while structures like dog houses or tents can trap heat inside, causing your dog to feel even hotter.1
If your dog usually enjoys chasing a ball around the park, consider doing such activities early in the morning or late in the day to avoid extreme heat. It's also a good idea to shorten your playtime at the park on hot days.
2. Walk Your Dog On The Grass
Be mindful of hot sidewalks and pavement when walking your dog on warm days. Although your dog's paw pads are generally tough and durable, they're still just skin, which can be as sensitive to heat as the bottoms of your feet.2
A good rule of thumb is that if the ground feels too hot for the back of your hand (try keeping it on the ground for 7-10 seconds), it will also be too uncomfortable for your dog’s paws. Remember, you’re wearing shoes to protect your feet from direct contact with the ground, but your dog isn’t.
Generally, temperatures of 90°F or more will result in surfaces that are likely too hot for your dog to walk on comfortably. However, this can vary depending on the amount of sunlight the surface receives and the surface type.
For example, pavement temperature can vary depending on whether it’s in direct sunlight or shade, the air's humidity level, and how windy it is. Dark, dense pavement retains heat much more effectively and longer than natural surfaces like grass. Try walking around in grassy areas to prevent burned or cracked paws.
3. Use Dog-Safe Sunscreen
Do dogs need sunscreen? Perhaps, but it typically depends on the breed. Hairless and light-colored dogs are more susceptible to sunburns than their counterparts.3
While it's best to keep your dog out of the sun for long periods on hot days, sunscreen can be beneficial. Dogs can develop skin problems from sun exposure like humans, but not to the same extent. Dogs are at the greatest risk of getting sunburned on their nose, tips of their ears, eyelids, and lips.
Look for non-scented, natural, and pet-friendly sunscreens, ideally recommended by your vet. Aloe vera is a common ingredient in sunscreen and sunburn remedies, as it has a soothing, cooling effect on the skin. It's best to avoid sunscreens containing zinc oxide because the ingredient can harm your dog if they lick and ingest it.3
Apply dog-safe sunscreen about 20 minutes before letting your pup go outside, and keep an eye on them to ensure they don’t lick off the sunscreen before it has been absorbed into their skin. The best spots to apply sunscreen onto your canine companion are the tips of the ears, the nose, around the lips, the groin, and the belly area.
4. Limit Vigorous Exercise
Exercise is a vital part of a dog’s daily routine. Whether walking or playing fetch at the park, your dog is healthiest when exploring the world through sniffing and playing. Of course, this can be challenging to achieve when temperatures skyrocket and the sun is blazing high in the sky.
While your pup may normally enjoy running around, it’s best to go slower during hot weather. Running in the heat can increase the risk of heat stroke and dehydration. Instead, provide them more time to sniff around outside.
Shorter walks are also a good idea. Doing this allows you to get home faster and minimize the risk of overheating. Staying close to home is the safest way to ensure your pet can cool off quickly.
5. Keep An Eye On Certain Breeds
Hot weather and dogs sometimes don’t mix. Certain breeds require extra attention in hot weather, as they're more prone to sunburn. Breeds with darker coats often absorb more sunlight and heat than lighter-colored dogs, meaning they'll feel warmer faster.4
Flat-nosed breeds, including Pugs, French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus, are even more sensitive to heat because they have inherent breathing difficulties.5 Heat stroke can happen to any dog, but these breeds may be more likely to develop heat stroke symptoms.
6. Use Heartworm, Flea, And Tick Preventatives
With warmer weather comes parasites, including fleas and ticks. Dog fur can be the perfect spot for these insects to hitch a ride, which is why it’s important to give your pet flea and tick preventives. Mosquitos can also spread heartworm in dogs.
Tick bites can cause dangerous illnesses, such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Unfortunately, there are no vaccines currently available for most tick-borne diseases dogs might get, meaning you must pay extra attention to their fur and skin.
Many types of flea, tick, and heartworm preventatives exist, including special collars, topical ointments, and oral tablets. Not all these products prevent attachment, but they will kill the parasites in an effective time frame and minimize the spread of disease. Which type of treatment you give your dog is ultimately your choice.
7. Groom Your Dog
Grooming should be a routine part of your dog’s overall care, but it’s a good idea to provide extra grooming in warmer weather when ticks and fleas are more prevalent.
Grooming your dog in hot weather can include:
- Brushing your dog’s fur
- Checking the inside of their ears
- Cleaning around the eyes, nose, and paw pads
- Cutting your dog's nails
Brushing is essential to grooming your furry companion and should ideally occur daily or weekly. The kind of brush you'll need depends on the length and texture of your dog’s fur. Different types of coats require different kinds of brushes or combs.
Additionally, trimming your dog's fur can help them stay cool during warm weather conditions and make daily grooming easier. Avoid cutting their fur too close to the skin and leave about one inch of hair instead. Otherwise, you may increase their risk of sunburns and heat stroke due to the lack of insulation.6
8. Monitor Play In The Water
A kiddy pool filled with cold water can be a fun and effective way to keep your dog cool outside. Cold water can help your furry friend regulate their body temperature since it will cool their body much quicker than air. This is because dogs tend to absorb and release heat through their paw pads.7 Splashing around at the beach, pool, or lake can also be an excellent and enjoyable way for your dog to cool down on hot days.
However, dogs may drink the water they’re playing in, so monitoring their time in these play areas is important. Acute water intoxication8 isn't common, but it’s best to know the following symptoms should it occur:
- Nausea and/or Vomiting
- A distended abdomen
- Slow heart rate
Acute water intoxication happens when a dog drinks a lot of water, particularly without expelling the excess through urination. Any of the symptoms mentioned above can indicate your dog has gulped too much water down, meaning their sodium-to-water ratio is off. Therefore, treatment is centered around raising the sodium concentration in the body. It’s best to consult a veterinarian if you suspect your dog is experiencing water intoxication.
9. Ensure Your Dog Drinks Water
On the flip side, not drinking enough water can harm your dog and lead to dehydration. Always ensure your pup has easy access to clean drinking water, especially in warm weather. Keep an eye on your dog on hot days in case they show signs of dehydration, which can include anything from excessive panting to dry eyes, vomiting, or lethargy.
10. Avoid Leaving Your Dog In A Parked Car
It's important to remember that cars retain heat, especially in direct sunlight. Parking lots usually have dark asphalt, meaning heat is easily retained. Even if it’s 71°F outside, the inside temperature of a car can quickly reach a scorching 116°F in an hour.9
It's inadvisable to leave your dog in the car on hot days for more than a few minutes, and even then, it’s always best to open at least one window or turn the air conditioning on.
11. Know The Signs Of Heatstroke
Since your furry friend is more susceptible to heat stroke, here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Rapid, loud, or otherwise abnormal breathing
- Excessive drooling
- A high internal body temperature (103°F or higher)
- Bright red gums and/or tongue
- Increased thirst
- Thick saliva
- High heart rate
If you suspect your dog may be experiencing heat stroke, immediately move them to a cooler area. Once they’re lying down in a cool space away from the heat, you can gently rub their fur with cold (not freezing) water. You can also place them in a tub of cool water. Stay by their side and call your vet, even if they start to show signs of improvement.
Dog Heat Safety: FAQs
What temperature is too hot for dogs?
Generally, dogs are okay at temperatures up to 80-90°F. Anything hotter than that poses a risk of heat stroke, sunburn, and other heat-related complications. Follow any heat warning for dogs your vet may suggest.
How long can my dog stay outside on hot days?
Your dog should only play outside for 10-20 minutes if outside temperatures are over 90°F. Always supervise your pet during this time.
How do I keep my dog safe during a heatwave?
Limit exercise on hot days or adjust the intensity of your dog’s usual exercise routine. Try and stick to early morning or late evening hours to avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day.
Always provide plenty of water and shade for your dog to relax in. Adding ice to drinking water can also be beneficial. Pupsicles (dog-friendly popsicles) made from water, frozen fruit, yogurt, or dog treats can be a cool and refreshing treat for your pup on a hot day. A cooling mat or vest can also go a long way.
Look for signs of heat stroke and act quickly if you notice any symptoms. Get your dog to a cool place, start lowering their body temperature with a cold washcloth or bath, and call your vet.
Hot weather can be difficult for humans and dogs, but our canine companions are more likely to suffer in the heat. Familiarize yourself with heat-related conditions that can occur, and ensure they have access to clean drinking water. If your dog is suffering from the heat, take the necessary steps to cool them down. You and your pup can have an amazing time with the proper knowledge and care.
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“Keep Pets Safe in the Heat.” The Humane Society of the United States, https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/keep-pets-safe-heat.
“Hot Pavements.” The Kennel Club, https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health-and-dog-care/health/health-and-care/a-z-of-health-and-care-issues/hot-pavements/.
Meyers, Harriet. “Do Dogs Need Sunscreen? What to Know about UV Exposure in Pets.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 21 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/do-dogs-need-sunscreen/.
Reisen, Jan. “How to Keep Your Dog Cool in Extreme Heat without Air Conditioning.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 26 July 2022, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/keep-dog-cool-summer-heat/.
“Types of Pets That Are Extra Sensitive to Warm Weather.” BC SPCA, 27 June 2022, https://spca.bc.ca/news/dogs-sensitive-hot-weather/.
Meyers, Harriet. “Summer Dog Grooming Tips: How to Keep Your Dog Cool in Summer.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 30 June 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/at-home-grooming-tips-to-keep-your-pup-comfortable-in-the-warmer-weather/.
“7 Tips to Help Keep Your Dog Cool This Summer.” USPCA, https://www.uspca.co.uk/7-tips-to-help-keep-your-dog-cool-this-summer.
“Treating Acute Water Intoxication in Pets.” ASPCApro, 21 Mar. 2023, https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/treating-acute-water-intoxication-pets.
“How to Keep Dogs Safe in the Heat.” Blue Cross, https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/how-to-keep-dogs-cool-in-the-summer-heat.