Hot Weather Safety Tips for Dogs: Prepare for the Heat

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Officially, summer isn’t here yet, but the mercury on the thermometer is still peaking over 90º F here in South Alabama. The dogs aren’t the only ones with their tongues hanging out and panting.

Most folks enjoy summer, and warmer weather and flowers and outdoor activities and all of the things that come along this time of year. But there are several things that come along with the season that are not so welcome. There are dangers to people and pets that increase with the coming solstice.

Just like your own body, your pet’s body needs to remain within a specific temperature range in order to function properly. Too hot or too cold and things begin to break down.

  1. One of the main dangers of heat is dehydration. Your pet, like you, needs proper hydration to function. Be sure you both have lots of fresh, clean water available at all times, particularly if you will be in the sun or exerting yourselves. There are a number of automatic waterers available

  2. Water is not just for drinking, leave a sprinkler on or place a small wading pool where your pet can get in and cool off. If you have a pool or take your pet to the lake or beach, make sure that you have a few things readily available. For pools, make sure there are steps or a ramp available since a dog has a hard time with ladders. If your dog is not a strong swimmer but likes to be in the water be sure to have a life jacket for him or her. It could save a life. Never leave your pet unattended near a pool.

  3. Be sure that your pet has a shady spot within his or her reach as well. The sun beating down on a body can be uncomfortable as well as dangerous. If there are no trees nearby that your pet can reach, you can create your own shady spot easily.

  4. Brachycephalic (short-faced) breeds, such as Bulldogs, Boxers, Pugs, and Pekingese have a harder time panting and cooling themselves and should be kept inside, in air-conditioning whenever possible.

  5. NEVER leave your pet in a vehicle. Even a few minutes can turn a car into an oven. According to the National Safe Kids Organization, if the ambient temperature is just 79° F, a car interior can reach the following temperatures!

    • White Interior 135° F
    • Red Interior 154° F
    • Blue/Green Interior 165° F
    • Black Interior 192° F

  6. You may not realize this, but your pet can get sunburned just like you can. White or light-colored coats and short-hair breeds are especially susceptible. Limit time in direct sunlight and use a sunscreen at least a half hour before going out.

  7. If you travel with your pet, be sure to take more frequent breaks, let them stretch, walk, use the “restroom” and get some fresh cool water. It will do you both some good.

Finally, be aware of the symptoms and signs of heatstroke. Heatstroke can be serious and often fatal.

Early Stage:

  • Heavy panting.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Bright red gums and tongue.
  • Standing 4-square, or spreading out in an attempt to maintain balance.
Advanced Stage:
  • White or blue gums.
  • Lethargy, unwillingness to move.
  • Uncontrollable urination or defecation.
  • Labored, noisy breathing.
  • Shock.

If your dog begins to exhibit signs of heatstroke, you should immediately try to cool the dog down:

  • Apply rubbing alcohol to the dog's paw pads. (Watch out for wounds.)
  • Hose down with water.
  • Apply ice packs to the groin area.
  • Allow the dog to lick ice chips or drink a small amount of water.
  • Offer Pedialyte®, or some diluted sports drink (such as Gatorade®) to restore electrolytes.

Check your pet's temperature regularly during the cooling period. Once the temperature has stabilized between 100 and 102 degrees, you can stop the process.

If you cannot get the dog cooled down and you begin to see advanced signs, take your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

One more note... Unless you live in Alaska, you know that as temperatures heat up, so does the war with fleas. It is near impossible to win if you get behind. It is best to start before you see the first fleas of the season (anywhere from March to May depending on your area). Be sure to treat your pet, your home and your yard.




Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.

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