Summer has finally arrived in Chicagoland and we can’t wait to indulge in some fun in the sun with our furry friends! When we feel the heat, it is easy to remember what to do to keep ourselves safe under the sun. But, it is equally important to practice summer safety for our pups!
Before we dive into what we can do to keep our pups cool and comfy, let’s look at the signs of overheating in dogs. Unlike humans, dogs do not sweat to help regulate body temperature; instead they pant. Panting is a normal response in warmer temperatures and after exertion; however, excessive panting is a sign for concern. So is excessive drooling, balance problems, and bright red gums. If left untreated, those signs of heat stroke can progress into labored breathing, white gums, lethargy, and vomiting. Heatstroke in dogs is a medical emergency and steps to gradually cool down your dog must be taken immediately. Be sure to follow up with your vet after any episode of heatstroke. Now that we know what overheating and heat stroke look like in dogs, let recap what we can do to prevent it from happening.
Just like with ourselves, it is crucial to keep our pooches hydrated. Be sure that cool, fresh water is available at all times. If it is especially hot, offer ice cubes or a pup-friendly frozen treat. An easy recipe that your pup is sure to enjoy takes blending a frozen banana with a bit of peanut butter until an ice cream consistency is reached. In addition to staying hydrated, it is important to balance any time spent in the sun with time spent relaxing in the shade. Simply relaxing under a big tree or canopy can be enough when the weather is comfortably warm; but, when the temperatures make you retreat indoors, take your doggo with you!
It might be tempting to shave a long or heavy coated pooch to help keep them cool. But, taking away their natural protection from the sun would do just the opposite. The long or double coat actually helps to trap the cool air against their skin and protect against sunburn. If your dog has a very short or white coat or is a hairless variety, they are likely to get sunburned, too. Be sure to invest in dog-friendly sunscreen; human sunscreen contains chemicals that can be toxic to pets.
Even with taking some extra precautions to protect your pooch from the sun and heat, it might still be best to limit outdoor playtime and walks to the morning and evening, when the sun is not quite as hot. Speaking of walks, be sure to test the temperature of the pavement with your hand before walking your dog. If it is too hot to hold your hand to the surface for 10 seconds, it is too hot for your dog to walk on. There are protective waxes or boots that can be used for longer walks or when the pavement seems too hot, no matter the time of day.
If it just seems too hot for a long walk or game a fetch, maybe a splash in some water is just the activity you and your pup need to enjoy the summer weather. To keep your pup happy and healthy, be sure to thoroughly dry his ears after splashing around. Simply wiping the moisture from the crevices of the outer ear with a cotton or gauze (never put anything into the ear canal) can be enough to prevent an ear infection. This is especially important with dogs that have ear canals that are covered by their floppy ears or with dogs that have hair that grows in the canal. Another water safety tip is to be sure that your dog does not drink the water from pools, creeks, lakes, or wherever you are splashing around. The chemicals used to keep pool water clean can be toxic to dogs and natural bodies of water might have parasites or microorganisms that can make them sick.
Overheating and ear infections aren’t the only things that can cause our dogs to feel under the weather. Summer is the season of outdoor parties and barbecues; but, that doesn’t mean it will also be the season of tummy aches and runny poops. Be sure that when Fido is enjoying the party, he is not enjoying the food. Too much human food, or even just a little bit of the wrong kind, can cause some serious tummy issues. Be sure that guests know not to feed your pets and be sure that any food left out is out of reach.
One final summer safety tip- don’t forget the flea and tick prevention. With the rainy spring, the bug population has exploded. Dogs and cats that are not protected are left vulnerable to a range of issues from minor bites and itches to major and costly infections.
Even though these safety tips are geared towards enjoying the sunshine with your favorite pup, they apply to your favorite feline, as well. The summer is short is Chicagoland, so get out and safely enjoy it with your four-legged friends before it’s over!