The expression “dog days of summer,” was meant to refer to the period in the summer initially thought to be hottest, July 3 to August 11.
However, as anyone who has experienced the oppressive heat and humidity of summer knows, that expression hung on for a good reason. Now it has come to refer to the period between early July and early September when the hot weather makes activity (for dogs and people) next to impossible.
While the heat and humidity might send you running for a pool or air-conditioned room, it’s important to remember that the same temperatures can not only be uncomfortable for your dog but downright dangerous.
One key to keeping your dog from overheating when temps are on the rise is to prevent your dog from becoming dehydrated.
As with humans, dehydration involves the loss of fluid from the body, and consequently, the loss of essential electrolytes and minerals.
Signs of dehydration in pets can include:
- Dry mouth and nose
- Sunken eyes
- Dry (possibly pale) gums
- Poor skin elasticity
Dehydration and subsequent overheating are easily avoidable. Always encourage resting and drinking throughout the day. Have plenty of fresh, cool water available for your fur friend at all times, especially if you are outdoors.
If your dog loves to play, make him lie down in a shady area periodically. You can also buy chew toys that are designed to be thrown in the freezer – for a little cool treat while taking a cooling-off break!
Dogs do not handle heat the same way humans do. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to sweat as a means of cooling themselves down. The few sweat glands they do have are located in their paws and can not do a sufficient job of regulating body temperature.
Instead, your dog cools himself by panting, taking rapid, open-mouthed breaths. It is entirely normal for dogs to pant when they are hot, excited, or when they have been doing heavy physical exercise.
However, if your dog is panting heavily or you notice a sudden change in his breathing, this could be a sign that he is suffering from heatstroke.
Any time the temperature and humidity rise to uncomfortable levels, you should monitor your dog for signs of heatstroke.
Other signs can include:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
- Glazed eyes
- Extreme thirst
- Excessive drooling
- Lack of coordination
- Purplish color to the tongue
- Muscle tremors
If your dog appears to be suffering from heatstroke, move him immediately into a shaded area or an air-conditioned location.
It is crucial to immediately lower his core body temperature by applying cold towels and ice packs to his head, neck, chest, and groin areas. You can also run cool (not cold) water over his body.
Let him drink small amounts of cool (again, not ice cold) water. Do not force him to drink, and do not allow him to drink too much.
Take him to the closest open veterinarian’s office or emergency clinic.
While you should keep a close eye on your canine companion as the temperature rises, certain breeds are more prone to overheating than others.
Brachycephalic breeds – breeds with short snouts and flat faces, such as Pugs, Shih-Tzus, Boxers, and French Bulldogs, are more likely to struggle with breathing in hot conditions.
Very old dogs and very young dogs also have much more difficulty regulating their body temperature and may become very cold or very hot in a short time.
Overweight dogs and dogs that suffer from pre-existing medical conditions can be more likely to be affected by the heat.
If you have a highly energetic pooch, take him on walks during cooler hours. Consider the early morning hours or evening, when the sun isn’t so intense. Remember to always bring water with you and force your dog to take breaks.
Always consider if you feel hot, chances are your pet feels more hot and uncomfortable.