Summer Heat

It’s common sense, right?  We’re hot so our dogs must be hot too!  We want the air conditioners and fans on high so our dogs do too!  And we’re drinking lots of soda, fruit juices, iced teas, frappes, so our dogs should too! — No!  Be sure your dog has plenty of fresh clean water available but never give your dog those drinks that we humans toss down!  Especially not, and I know I don’t need to mention this but I will, especially not alcohol!

So we all know that our dogs need to stay cool in the summer but are we doing as much as we can to ensure our dogs stay safe and cool in the summer? 

A dog’s body temperature is normal at 101 degrees.  Dogs maintain this temperature a number of ways but not always in the same ways as we do.  Unlike humans, dogs only sweat through their pads on their feet and their noses.  Sweat reduces bodily heat by being evaporated by air.  Humans have sweat glands all over their bodies so heat is dispersed by all this sweat being evaporated.  When the hot air is also humid, laden with water, less sweat can be evaporated into the air and we feel even hotter.  We humans shed our clothes in favor of looser knits, shorts, tee-shirts, and bathing suits to make more skin available to the air to optimize evaporation of sweat.  Since dogs only sweat through their pads and noses these are the only areas dogs need to have available to open air.

This brings us to the topic of shaving dogs.

We see our dogs panting, a sign it is hot and the dog needs to cool down.  Panting exchanges the warm moist air from the dog’s body in exchange for cooler outside air.  (Never muzzle a dog in such a way to restrict panting!)

Shedding dogs like Golden Retrievers, German Shepards, Huskies, Malamutes, all northern breed dogs, need to be brushed to remove their undercoats which is like a down jacket to us!  The outer layer of dog coat provides much needed protection to dogs from sun, bugs and bug bites, and heat!

While in the winter we humans don a hat to keep us warm; we also don a hat come summer to keep us cool!  Dogs’ coats provide the same protection.  (  Shaved dogs are as susceptible as humans to sun burns and skin cancers!  If you have shaved your dog, make sure to load him or her up with a non-toxic sunblock like those available for children.

Dogs with hair like poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, Bedlington Terriers, the “Doodle” dogs and other “haired” breeds can be shaved without fear of destroying the coat of the dog but they still need sun block!  The lighter colored the dog, the more likely he or she can suffer from sun burn and skin cancers.


Signs of Overheating

So, you’ve been out with your dog and he or she is still panting after you’ve been home for half an hour.  While this may be normal for your dog, it can also be a sign of heat stroke!  When a dog’s body temperature reaches about 104 degrees the dog’s internal organs begin to be destroyed.  This is an emergency situation and a time to call your vet immediately!  Signs of heat stroke in dogs are pale gums but a bright red tongue, excessive panting, thick saliva, vomiting, increased heart rate, and eventually coma and death (

Get your dog out of the heat.  Cool them down as quickly as possible with wet towels, cool water (not cold!), a fan, air conditioning…… when your dog seems to have recovered take them to the vet!  Although the dog may seem to be out of immediate danger there is still a chance that the heat has damaged internal organs!

So, you work all day and keep your dog outside?  There are certain conditions which can make this an option for many dogs.  Make sure your dog always has access to shelter to get out of the sun and heat.  There should be a good source of shade available and a constant source of cool, fresh water.  Some dogs may enjoy having a children’s swimming pool available to wade in…. remember, dogs disperse heat through their feet.  Never leave a dog out in a sunny yard without having shade and water available!


Dogs and Cars

So, you and your dog went out for the day and you’re returning home for a well deserved break!  You’re thinking about dinner and you just need to run into the store for 5 minutes to pick up some milk.  Take your dog home and then go back to the store!  Never leave a dog unattended in a car!  It doesn’t matter if the windows are rolled down or the air conditioner is going full blast!  Dozens of dogs die each summer because their owners thought they would only be 5 minutes!  The interior of a car can heat up to well over 100 degrees in less than 5 minutes!  Air conditioners can turn off; stop working, blast hot air…  We know you love your dog more than that milk!  Take your dog home instead of leaving him or her in the car.


Certain Breeds and the heat

And finally, remember certain breeds are more prone to being miserable in the heat.  If you have a short nosed dog like an English Bull Dog, a Pug, a Pekingese, or a Boston Terrier their respiratory systems are not as well designed to disperse heat by panting.  Keep these dogs indoors during the hot daylight hours and walk them in early mornings or late evenings.  Older dogs and young puppies are also more susceptible to suffering from heat-related illnesses.

So remember, if you’re hot so is your dog.  Take preventative steps to ensure your dog can get comfortable away from the heat and provide cool fresh water.  Keep dogs out of the sun as much as possible.  Do not allow your dog to “run ‘til he drops” by monitoring activities.  When in doubt, call your vet!  Hot dogs are only good in buns and covered in mustard!