The summer season is here and, for many of us, temperatures are already soaring to scorching triple digits. As it turns out the “dog days of summer” aren’t the most friendly of times for our canine companions, who cannot tolerate heat like us humans.
Dr. Genna Mize
Virbac Technical Services Veterinarian
Summertime can be “too hot to handle” for dogs, primarily because they are not well equipped with the major mechanism by which we dissipate heat: perspiration or sweating. Because dogs have less sophisticated sweat glands, limited primarily to their paws (with some minimally efficient glands associated with their mucosal membranes), dogs depend on other modalities to thermoregulate.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, thermoregulation describes the mechanism by which mammals regulate their internal temperature when external temperatures vary. Because their ability to perspire is so limited, dogs depend on panting to keep their cool. Remember, they can’t pour themselves a glass of ice water, turn on the fan, or take off their fur coats!
Giving your pup ice water after a summer walk is not a bad idea. Here are some other ways you can help your dog beat the heat and keep them safe during these summer months:
- Stay indoors during the heat of the day and find activities you both can enjoy. This is an easy tactic for couch potato pups who probably don’t mind binge-watching your favorite show.
- If outdoors, stay in the shade, preferably with a fan, supervision, and always plenty of fresh water.
- Walks, even short ones, should be limited to early morning or later in the evening. Don’t forget to check the temperature of the pavement! If it’s too hot to touch, it can burn your dog’s paw pads. Protective booties can come in handy for our canine hiking enthusiasts.
- If your dog enjoys water sports, purchasing a kiddie pool for the backyard or simply playing with the garden hose can keep your pooch active while staying cool.
- Consider using a cooling jacket, bandana, or cooling pad. These can be a great tool for the summer or even year round, especially for some of the more heat-sensitive breeds (e.g., brachycephalic-flat nosed dogs).
- Making your dog “pupsicles” with small amounts of chicken, beef or tuna broth (be considerate of any food allergic pets when making flavor decisions) mixed with water is a fun way to encourage hydration. Be sure to leave out the onion and garlic!
- Be vigilant about keeping your dog at a healthy weight. Like brachycephalic breeds, whose respiratory system doesn’t allow them to disperse heat as efficiently, overweight dogs have a greater risk of overheating. Not to mention, maintaining a healthy weight for your dog promotes overall health, keeping you two having fun (responsibly) in the sun!