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Family Essential Training for Canine Homes

Caring For K9s In The Summer Heat

The summer heat normally is a major health issue for humans. According to WebMD, about 6,000 people a year seek emergency treatment for heat illnesses.

And for dogs it’s the same, if not worse, because they can’t shed off internal heat as well as humans can. Let’s look at how a dog’s body works with heat and how we can help protect them from overheating.

How A Dog’s Body Works

You’ve probably heard that dogs do not sweat, not totally true. They actually do sweat through
merocrine glands in their paws and nose, not over the whole body like humans do. We know the glands in the paws help dissipate heat, but it is not so certain the glands in the nose can do the same. But this tiny bit of sweat is the most minor way they cool down.

Panting is how they mostly cool down. By quickly inhaling air, the liquid in their mouth, throat, and lungs evaporates, cooling the air inside the body. Then by quickly exhaling they expel a lot of heat with their breath.

Finally, blood vessels near the skin and can dissipate heat that way, which is why getting them wet helps to cool them off quicker.

How To Detect Overheating
Signs of overheating in dogs are excessive panting or drooling, weakness, disorientation, gums and/or tongue change color to a bright red or bluish. Normally a dog’s body heat should be between 101ºF and 102.5ºF. When your furr-baby’s body temperature reaches 106ºF they are dangerously overheated and are
suffering heat stroke. When the body reaches 107ºF several internal organs will begin to shut down. Any dog who’s body temperature hits 106 should be taken to a vet immediately, that is an emergency! So let’s do some simple things to avoid this!!!!

How To Keep Your K9 Cool
There are several ways to help your pup-pup cool down when they begin to show signs of needing relief form the heat, and to avoid this situation in the first place. Obviously not letting your dog outside during the day (or the hottest part of the day) for extended periods of time is the first line of defense. When they do go out into the yard, be sure there is plenty of cool, fresh, clean water and a well shaded area large enough for a few dogs, even if you have only one. Some air-conditioning companies actually make small AC units to keep outdoor dog houses cooled and heated! I learned this when filming the East Baton Rouge Police K9 Unit. And dog houses should be ventilated and large enough for the dog, and built in a shaded area. A dog house is not a temperature shelter, it is a temperature trap, if not designed and handled properly.

Sun Screen for dogs is an actual thing, and yes, you dog can get sunburned through their furry coats!

There are also
cooling vests and mats! Something I just discovered recently! BUT be cautious, in high humidity like here in southeast Louisiana. The high humidity does not allow these vests to evaporate water fast enough.

The Green Pet Shop sells a pressure activated cooling mat. It doesn’t get cold enough to harm your pet, and it can be placed in a kennel, in the car, on the den floor, anywhere pretty much. I don’t own one yet, but just placed an order. I’d love to have this in the back of my SUV for Luna Belle after her off-leash sessions and walks. Hey, it hits 90 very early in the day here in SE LA, and once the sun begins to set, it stays in the 80s until it’s full night!

CAUTION: Never use ice or ice packs! Applying ice or an ice pack directly to a dog’s skin can easily lead to ice burn!

Placing a
cotton bandana in the fridge or freezer, then tying it loosely around pup-pup’s neck will help them cool down, too. Caution that you do not make it too cold as to cause skin damage. Also, if your dog has a thick or double-coat, this may not be as effective, if it works at all.

Frozen treats are fantastic to help your dog cool off! Mix up some dog-safe ingredients, pout into a popsicle or other mold, freeze, serve! I can’t stress enough to do your homework and only use dog-safe ingredients and not to give too much at once.

Kiddie pools are fun and help a lot! You can also play in it with your pup-pup! Get a small, shallow, cheap kiddie pool, fill up, play! Be sure to drain it every couple of days, we don’t want to have algae to start growing, or for mosquitoes or other critters to start using it. Also, some dogs will not get into a kiddie pool, you’ll have to test your dog and see what they prefer.

Sprinklers are also fun if your dog is into them. Not all dogs are. But getting their body soaking wet will go a long way to cooling them down. Plus, as the water evaporates, it is doing the same job sweat does on our skin. Just be aware some thick coat and double-coat breeds take a LOT to get water to the actual skin!

Large water bowls inside and out! Drinking cool water can help dogs regulate their body temperature so make sure there is plenty of access to water both inside and outside. Also, while walking with your dog or hiking, carry a bottle of water and portable bowl so they can drink ever 15-20 minutes.

Ice can be placed in their water bowls, but if your dog takes a piece of ice to chew on, be aware that ice can potentially chip and crack a dog’s tooth.

CAUTION: Dogs tend to lap up a lot of water when playing in water, which at that time is good, they’re keeping cool and having fun. BUT when they come inside and start to lap up water from their water bowl fast and furious, that can lead to water intoxication and/or stomach bloat. The symptoms of water intoxication are: nausea, vomiting, bloating, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, excessive salivation, staggering, and lethargy. Avoiding bloat is also why we don’t feed our dogs 30 minutes before or after exercise or any strenuous activity.

When walking your dog outdoors, if the surface is too hot, you will burn your dog’s paw pads! Before starting, place the back of your hand on the surface (cement, asphalt, dirt, sand, etc) for 10 seconds. If it burns you, or feels uncomfortable to you, do NOT let your dog walk on that surface! Another good test, walk barefoot on that surface yourself. If it’s too hot or in any way uncomfortable for you, it’s going to be the same for your dog.

Grooming is important as it keeps excess hair and dirt and grime off your dog, so they can naturally cool off a little better. Daily brushing is important especially with the heat. I like the HandOn brand glove brush as it’s easy and effective for daily use. And Luna Belle LOVES being petted with this glove brush.

CAUTION: Do NOT shave your dog, especially if they are a double-coated dog! You can actually damage the hair and skin, and in many cases the hair will not grow back properly making your dog miserable and unhealthy. Check with your vet for proper guidance.

Keep your dog in their
ideal weight range! An overweight dog (and there’s sadly tons of them out there) can’t cool off nearly as well, even with all of the above suggestions. Remember, your dog is a born athlete, so if you don’t see the rib cage, they’re too fat!

Finally, a word about
dogs in cars during warmer months. Basic rule is, DON’T DO IT! Your car heats up fast when the engine and AC are not running. If you’re going places that require you to keep your dog in the car, it’s probably a good idea to just leave your dog at home. And open window is NOT enough cooling in a car!

Side Note: If you need to monitor the temperature in your car, RV, dog house, etc, look into a MARcell device. It is a cellular network device that monitors the temperature and humidity. It will text you when it detects the temperature hitting your customized specification. The drawback is, $8/month cell phone bill for it, and it only checks every 15 minutes, which is way too long. You can buy extra manual check-ins for very little money. And that means you’d personally have to remember to pull out your cell phone, launch the app, and check the car’s temp manually. This device does NOT give you an excuse to leave your dog in the car willy-nilly!

So keep yourselves and your puppers safe from the heat! And remember,