As the mercury rises, so do the risks for dogs in hot weather
The warmth of the summer brings plenty of fun, freedom, and sunshine. But it can also be dangerous for our four-legged companions. As someone with two thick-coated German Shepherds, I wanted to learn more about how to keep dogs safe in hot weather. Now, I’m here to share everything I’ve learned.
There are heat-related illnesses that dogs can fall victim to if we’re not careful. Dehydration and heat stroke are two main risks, especially for certain breeds that are more susceptible.
What dog breeds are most sensitive to heat?
There are dogs with shorter muzzles, dogs with thicker coats, and seniors and puppies who all are at risk in hot weather.
Brachycephalic (short-muzzled) dogs
Panting is what primarily keeps a dog cool when it gets too warm in hot weather. However, some breeds have what’s known as BAS, or Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. These dogs have narrow airways, which limits airflow. For these dogs panting is ineffective, making breathing (and cooling down) more difficult. Hot weather can be dangerous, or even fatal, for dogs with BAS.
According to the SPCA, breeds that commonly suffer from BAS include Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, and Shih Tzus.
Keeping Thick-coated dog breeds safe in summer heat
A dog’s coat is an insulator, keeping him cool in hot weather (and warm in cold weather). Some breeds have a double coat; the shorter layer is what helps regulate temperature. Dogs with thicker or double coats will need regular grooming and brushing to make sure it’s still insulating properly.
Additionally, don’t shave double-coated dogs. Shaving this type of coat can result in sunburn, heatstroke, and skin cancer.
Some thick-coated or double-coated breeds are German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Leonbergers, and Huskies. If your dog has a darker coat, he’ll absorb more heat as well. (SPCA)
Overweight dogs and hot weather
Obese and overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from heat-related illnesses since the excess fat traps the heat in their already hot body.
Puppies and senior dogs are at risk in summer weather
Senior dogs are generally more sensitive to heat and often have underlying health conditions that can make them more susceptible to heatstroke.
Puppies are often high-energy and have a harder time regulating heat compared to adult dogs. They can easily overwork themselves and get too hot.
Heat-related illnesses in dogs
Dehydration and heatstroke are two very real dangers for dogs in hot weather. Learning to recognize symptoms and knowing how to treat these illnesses may just save your dog’s life.
Dehydration: symptoms and treatment
Some telltale signs of dehydration according to the AKC:
- Loss of appetite
- Dry nose and gums
- Thick saliva
Ways to treat and reduce dehydration in dogs:
- Provide plenty of water
- Replace electrolytes using Pedialyte (only if the dog is not vomiting, and be sure to check with your vet first)
- If the dog is persistently vomiting or you suspect heatstroke, this warrants a trip to the emergency vet
Heatstroke: symptoms and treatment
The Memphis Veterinary Specialists describe the symptoms of heatstroke as:
- Excessive panting
- Red gums
They also listed ways to help your dog if he has heatstroke:
- Bring the dog out of the hot weather
- Let him drink cool water, but don’t force him
- Place a cold wet towel on the dog’s back to help him cool off
- Do not give the dog aspirin
How to keep your dog cool and safe in the summer heat
If your dogs are anything like my two dogs, being outdoors is fun and exciting! As much as they both love being out in the fresh air, I have to watch them carefully to be sure they’re okay. I often bring them back indoors to take a break and cool down before heading back outside.
Ways to reduce the risk (as listed by the SPCA)
- Limit walks and exercise to early morning and late evening when temperatures are lower
- On the hotter days, keep your dogs indoors with plenty of cool water
- Check to see how hot the pavement is; if you can’t hold your bare hand against it for several seconds, it’s too hot
- When outside, provide your dog with water breaks and time to cool off in the shade
- Invest in a plastic kiddie pool if you can, but always supervise your dog around water
- Most importantly, DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR!
My quest for information is far from over, but these are the key points to keep dogs safe in hot weather. Please! Do your own research too, and be well-versed in summer safety for your pups.