The summer is finally here. For us it may be the time for wearing cool summer clothes and drinking spritzers outside but our dogs might be less happy about it. Firstly, they can only sweat through their paws and their main way of regulating body temperature is panting. Secondly, contrary to popular belief, dogs can also suffer sunburn – especially the ones with short coats. Owners of flat-faced1 dogs such as bulldogs, pugs or boxers must take special care of their furry friends in the summer as they already have trouble breathing under the best conditions.
Just like us, dogs can become dehydrated, overheated or even suffer a heat stroke. Remember that very driven dogs might keep up what they are doing even if it’s not good for them (fetch fanatics, watch out!) so keep your eyes open. A dehydrated dog might have dry mouth, gums and nose as well as sunken eyes. The signs of overheating include heavy panting and drooling, dizziness, collapsing, disorientation, increased temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea.
There are two simple tests for dehydration that you can perform at home:
- Gently stretch a fold of skin and let go. It should spring back to its original place immediately. If it doesn’t, something is not right.
- Press a tip of your finger gently into the dog’s gums, then take it away. The spot that you pressed will be white – it should return to its natural colour within a couple of seconds. If it doesn’t, something is not right.
If your dog seems dehydrated or overheated immediately seek medical attention!
- provide access to fresh water at all times (that is true all year around!)
- make sure your dog drinks enough, if you think they might be drinking too little you can mix water into their food or add broth to their water
- provide a sheltered resting place at all times
- walk your dog as early as you can, before it gets hot
- make sure there is plenty of shade on your walk
- if you go hiking choose trails with access to water (for example passing by lakes or going along rivers) so that your dog can cool themselves down
- take water with you on walks and offer it frequently
- make sure that the muzzle is well-fitted so that they can pant properly!
- if you’re uncertain – check the temperature of the pavement with your hand!
- groom your dog – the less tangled and messy their coat, the better they can control their body temperature
- give medication regularly, summer is prime time for ticks ans mosquitos which transmit many dangerous diseases and parasites such as heartworm; obviously consult a veterinarian first
- leave your dog in the car (not even for a couple of minutes, cars can heat up to 40°C in 10min!)
- walk your dog around noon
- walk your dog in the sun
- force your dog to run any more than they want to
- make your dog walk on asphalt!
- necessarily shave them – dog hair is different from ours, some of them may never re-grow their coat properly and shaving them may actually reduce their ability to control their body temperature
- you can make your dog a paddling pool in the garden
- you can buy a cooling blanket for your dog; a wet towel or an ice pack can help too
- offer them ice cubes (or frozen broth!) and other frozen goodies (for example peanut butter, yoghurt, berries or bananas can all make for delicious frozen snack)