Summertime across the U.S. means high temperatures and hot sun, which also means this is the time of year when dogs are most at risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and even heat-related death. With a little preparation and by following some simple guidelines, you can keep your best friend safe and happy, even on the most sweltering days. And if you’re working or volunteering in a shelter, here’s some great tips for keeping pups in your shelter cool too. Now you can be “pup-prared” for what’s ahead.
Pack a go-kit.
Taking a dog out on the town? Make sure to take your go-kit, too! Whether you’re going for a walk, running errands, or hanging out at a pet-friendly restaurant, have a supply bag ready to bring with you. Include a water bottle and bowl; dog-safe sunscreen for their nose and other exposed areas; a blanket or towel to make sure your pet doesn’t have to stand on hot pavement; a bandana you can soak in water or specialty cooling vest; and of course lots of fresh water and treats!
Plan your walk schedule.
Dogs can’t sweat. They only eliminate heat through their paw pads, the insides of their ears, and by panting. That means, as unbearable as you find the weather in July, dogs generally have even less tolerance for our brutal heat than their human counterparts. A good rule is to walk your dog early in the mornings and in the evenings during and after sunset. Walks during the heat of day should be restricted to short potty breaks in grassy, shady areas, as much as possible.
Considering paw booties? They’re cute and can be helpful in some circumstances. But your dog releases heat through their paws—again, that’s how they stay cool—so booties are best used for short periods and only when really necessary.
Leave your pooch at home when running errands.
Every summer, dogs die in hot cars—mostly because their owners underestimate how quickly car temperatures become deadly. Don’t believe us? Check out this YouTube video of the veterinary nurse who did the hot car test. Even if you leave the AC on while you shop, your car can overheat or the AC may fail. We know dogs love nothing more than a car ride, but in the heat of summer, it’s just not worth the risk.
Never leave your dog outside without constant shade and water.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating because it’s so im-paw-tant. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog. Keep your pup indoors whenever possible. If your dog is outdoors, make sure they can be comfy, cool, and completely hydrated with lots of water in lots of bowls. Bonus points for adding an outdoor fan to your shady porch for relaxing out back.
Up the fun factor.
Summer can mean less time outdoors and more time staying cool at home. Take advantage of the wide variety of enrichment activities and products on the market; there’s plenty of DIY options as well. Make doggie popsicles and frozen Kong treats. Or bring home a baby pool for your dog to splash around in. It can be fun for your dog to go “bobbing” for pieces of apples, carrots, and other dog-safe fruits in the baby pool, too. These kinds of activities can make summer a blast for both of you.
Don’t be a trailblazer.
It’s hard to understand why anyone is out walking or jogging at 2pm on a blistering summer day. If you’re dragging your dog along with you, notice how they’re panting and stepping gingerly to avoid the burning hot pavement? You could seriously be hurting your pup. Think before you workout with your dog in the summer.
Seriously, trust us and the hundreds of emergency vets who have tried to save your overheated dogs’ lives with ice baths, fluids, and other extraordinary measures. The middle of the day is no time to take your dog out on the trail. Even if they seem OK, the hot pavement alone is scalding their paws and making it impossible for their bodies to stay cool. Leave your dog home, chilling (literally) on the couch, while you head out for your daily dose of sweat and sunshine.
With a little creativity and preparation, summer can be fun, safe, and memory-making for you and your dog. Following these tips will make sure your dog stays healthy and happy, even on the days when temps hit the high 90s or even 100s in some parts of the country and can make you feel like you’re standing on the face of the sun.