Rides around town with the windows down. Long, lazy walks in the morning and evening. A dip in the pool, pond, lake or ocean. The smell of fresh cut grass or a neighborhood cookout.
Many pet owners can't wait to get their pets outside to be a part of all the activities they enjoy during the warmest months of the year.
But before you take your fur-covered pal out into the sunshine, make sure you understand how your pet handles the heat, as well as other summertime temptations.
There's one huge difference between the way your body processes hot temps and the way your dog's body handles it – sweat.
The human body cools itself down by sweating. You possess about two million sweat glands, and without them you wouldn't be able to tolerate the heat your body produces.
Sweat glands regulate your body's temperature by bringing moisture to the surface of your skin, which then has a cooling effect as the sweat evaporates. Since sweat glands are found throughout the human body, this cooling effect takes place over the majority of your skin.
Your Pet Can't Sweat
Dogs not only have a higher body temperature than people at about 100 to 102oF, their bodies just aren't as efficient at cooling down.
The only sweat glands your furry companion has are on his nose and the pads of his feet. The primary way he brings his body temp down is through panting and breathing. The lining of his lungs, which is moist, serves as the evaporative surface.
There's a popular notion that a dog's tongue contains sweat glands, but this is a fallacy. Some minimal cooling occurs as your pup pants and draws air over moist surfaces in his mouth, but there are no sweat glands in the oral cavity.
10 Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe on Summer Days
- 1. Dogs and cats can quickly dehydrate, so make sure your pet has plenty of fresh, clean water at all times – but especially during hot weather. If your pet will be outside in the heat any length of time, he should have access to complete shade and again, an ample supply of drinking water.
- 2. Exercise your dog in the morning or evening during the coolest temps of the day, stay in the shade whenever possible, and keep all your animals indoors when it's extremely hot, generally considered to be 90oF or hotter.
- 3. Regardless of the time of day, don't overdo exercise sessions. Long periods of exercise in hot weather, even after the sun goes down, can bring on heatstroke – especially in flat-faced dogs that pant less effectively than breeds with longer muzzles.
- 4. Never, EVER leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle on a hot day. Your car or truck cab can become a furnace very quickly, even with the windows open, and can cause a fatal case of heatstroke in your beloved pet. Aside from the risk of serious illness or death for your pet, leaving pets unattended in vehicles in hot weather is illegal in many states.
- 5. Make sure your dog knows how to swim before giving her access to a pool, pond, lake or other body of water. Not all dogs, even breeds known for their affinity for water, instinctively know how to swim. Introduce your pup to water gradually.
Make sure if you take your dog boating she wears her own floatation device. Even if she's an excellent swimmer, if she should get injured or worn out from exertion, the floatation device will keep her in sight until she can be rescued. If your dog doesn't listen to the 'come' command, always attach a long rope to her life vest so you can 'reel' her in.
- 6. Play in the sprinkler with your dog or hose her down with cool water if she must stay outside and cannot avoid temperatures over 90 degrees.
- 7. Don't walk or otherwise subject your dog (or cat) to hot pavement. Not only can this result in burns to tender paws, but because animals are close to the ground – and the ground is much hotter than the air – your animal can quickly overheat.
- 8. Keep your pet safe from toxic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides commonly used during spring and summer months.
- 9. Take care to keep your pet away from the potential food and drink hazards of your backyard barbeques, and remember to keep them safe at home during fireworks displays. Many animals suffer extreme fear from the noise, and the explosives themselves can be potentially hazardous to a curious pet.
- 10. Work with a holistic veterinarian to help your pet avoid summer pests like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. There are safe, natural methods to both prevent and eradicate summertime pest infestations.
Know the Signs of Overheating
Symptoms your pet is overheated include:
- Excessive panting
- Difficulty breathing
- Elevated body temperature (over 104 degrees)
- Increased heart rate and respiration
- Weakness or collapse
- Diarrhea and vomiting
If you have an older pet, one that is overweight or obese, an animal with a heart or lung condition, or a dog or cat with a flat face, the very best thing you can do during hot summer days is keep your pet inside in the air conditioning, with plenty of cool, fresh water to drink.