With summer on the way (in full swing? I can never remember when summer officially starts), it’s time to talk about dogs and overheating.
First off, if you have a dog that you go running or biking with, hooray for you! If you have a dog that you take out and keep with you, also hooray! But let’s talk about some safety issues.
We all know that cars are dangerous places, even with the windows down, when it gets really hot, right? I sure hope so. The average statistic is that it becomes too hot to support life with in FIVE MINUTES on a really hot day. So if you take your dog with you, I’m in full support of that! But take your dog out of the car. Either take them inside with you or tie them somewhere (out of the way, where they won’t trip people and/or get accosted and, panicking, bite someone) in the shade.
If you bike or run with your dog, consider starting earlier! Use your best judgment. If your dog is lagging or is panting heavily, give them a chance to stop and cool off.
Panting is NOT a very effective way to cool the body, so it takes dogs a lot longer to cool down than it does people. You can help by offering water (see below) or running them through puddles and wet grass. Heck, you can even help by hosing them down — water will work on them like sweat works on us. (Be aware that using COLD water can be harmful; use luke-warm water. Also, some dogs with heavy coats can end up with a nasty sort of diaper rash if you’re wetting them often and it takes them a while to dry. Not all dogs do, but it’s something to keep in mind if your dog is prone toward skin irritations.)
Some other things you should know:
Water bowls are fantastic, but beware water with ice in it. An overheated dog that drinks too-cold water can end up with a frightening condition called bloat. The stomach twists and cramps, and it can be fatal. Room temperature water is really ideal. If your dog isn’t wanting to drink, don’t force them; they know more than you do! And if they’re hot and drinking a lot, ration out the water until they cool down.
Those water bowls by shops are great, too, but beware water that looks slimy or green. Tis the season for giardia, which is no one’s friend. It seems to flourish every summer, and the longer a water bowl’s been sitting, the more likely a sick dog has had a drink and passed on germs. Plus, who know what lovely bacteria are growing in there, waiting for a host?
Another helpful thing is a cool coat. They’re hideous pale blue coats that work like swamp coolers. You wet the coat and put it on your dog, and as the water evaporates it cools your pup down — plus that hideous color deflects heat. I have one for my shepherd, and it helps quite a lot. They generally run $20-$40, and it’s money well spent if you’re outside with your dog frequently.
Some signs to look for in overheating dogs are whites around the eyes and showing pink skin at the corners of the mouth. If your dog is panting with their tongue way out (especially if the tongue is pale), that’s another warning sign. If it’s just started then asking your dog to settle down in some shade is good. If you’re concerned, a bath or a cool-water enema (if your dog will stand for it!) will bring the body temperature down faster.
All that said — go out and have fun! It’s summer, and definitely time to play!