Summertime means more fun time outdoors, but hot weather makes for some unique summer pet care challenges. Dogs can be just as susceptible to extreme temperatures as their owners are. When the temperatures get extreme, your dog’s safety should be a top priority. Here are the top ways to stay Summer-safe for your small dog.
Lots of water.
Dehydration and heat stroke are very real threats during the summer. Dogs should always have fresh, clean water available.
Carry portable water bowls on walks and bring them on vacation or long car rides. Short-nosed dogs, like pugs, Japanese chins, dark-colored pets, animals that are overweight or ones that have thick coats are especially prone to heat stress. Watch out for these symptoms:
- Excess fatigue
- Decreased urination
- Dry gums
- Refusal to eat
- Sunken eyes
- Vomiting or drooling
- Decreased skin elasticity
What should you do if you think your pet is dehydrated? If they seem weak or off-balance, cool them with a hose or wet towels to bring the temperature down and get them to a veterinarian as quickly as possible.
Supervised pool time.
Providing a small child-sized swimming pool for your small breed dog to play in on hot summer days is a great way to cool them off, gives them something to do for great play and exercise and will wear them out for a good long nap!
You can go online and purchase fancy (a.k.a. expensive) doggy pools (like this one, which I love!), or you can opt for a more inexpensive one and select a standard kiddie pool with a hard exterior (versus a soft inflatable one) so that your dog can freely play without the risk of them damaging or puncturing the plastic as they jump in and out.
If you have a larger swimming pool or plan to take your dog to a lake or other large swimming area, we recommend providing your pooch with a life jacket like this one from Outward Hound. Your small dog will get tired quickly if they cannot stand up, or they may not be able to find the exit quickly enough. If you are in an open body of water, you also have to deal with current sweeping them away.
Provide shade when playing outside.
Dogs tend to enjoy sitting in the sun. But lots of time spent in the sun can cause heat stroke and increase the risk of skin cancers. So be sure to provide a shady area for your dog at all times.
If it’s exceptionally hot and humid out, limit your dog’s quality outdoor recreation/exercise time to the early morning and after-dark hours — avoid the middle of the day, when the sun is hottest.
If your dog is outside, make sure there is somewhere he can go to take shelter from the sun’s terrible rays. While a large tree may not be available, even a small patio area has room for a canvas canopy. Collapsible shade tents like this one are readily available at home and garden stores and can be folded and unfolded as needed.
Never leave a dog in a vehicle.
Never, ever leave your dog in the car. The truth is that dogs are more susceptible to the summer heat than we are. They have to wear a fur coat all year round. Whereas we can sweat to cool ourselves down, our pups sweat only through glands on the nose and paws and try to release heat by panting.
Even if your windows are cracked or you park in the shade, heat can build quickly in a car in the summer, turning it into an oven. If it’s 95 degrees at noon and you leave your windows cracked, the temperature in your car may still rise as high as 113 degrees. This is a recipe for disaster for your dog.
Ice cube treats for playing outside.
Certain small dog breeds are brachycephalic-or have a short flat-shaped face-like Pugs, Boston terriers or French bulldogs. They cannot pant effectively and are more susceptible to heat stroke. Be sure to keep lots of frozen treats on hand in hot weather for these breeds.
Add a few cubes of ice to your pets’ water bowls. They’ll enjoy it, and it will help to keep their body temperature down.
Dog ice cream is found in pretty much every grocery store, but if you like you can make your own. Frozen broth popsicles are another easy frozen treat your dog will love; also, chilled cucumber is a no-prep option that is full of water.
Shoes and sunglasses.
Under the summer sun, asphalt on sidewalks and streets can heat to a temperature that can burn a dog’s paws. To avoid scorched paws, walk your dog very early in the morning or in the late evening when the streets have cooled off. If you must walk your dog during the day, dog booties can protect his feet.
It can be easy to forget that underneath all that fur, your pet has skin just like humans do, and it can also get sunburned. Dogs with thin coats or white fur, like Chihuahua, Chinese Crested, and many terriers have increased risk of damage due to sun exposure, so make sure to put sunscreen on them before you go out.
Dog eyewear. Like sunglasses, can protect your dog’s eyes from over-exposure to bright sunlight and ultraviolet rays.
Keep your dog groomed of excess hair and mats.
Trimming long hair can help keep your pet cool, but shaving can do more harm than good. The layers of a pet’s coat helps protect him from overheating and sunburn.
Grooming is especially important in warmer weather. Brush your pet more often during the summer to get rid of excess or matted fur, which can weigh a pet down and contribute to overheating.
The undercoat is actually part of a dog’s natural cooling system, but if not properly maintained it can become matted and prevent air flow across your dogs skin. Frequent brushing helps remove and “dead” fur and keeps your pets coat healthy and comfortable.
Keep your dog free of external parasites (fleas, ticks) and heartworms.
Summer is the season for fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. These are pests, which can present a minor discomfort to your dog at best and at worst may be life threatening or cause self-mutilating behaviors.
There are a wide variety of preventatives on the market, including chemical spot-on treatments, repellent shampoos, essential oils, and flea/tick collars. Consult your veterinarian about the best product for your pet: Every summer it’s smart to consult with your vet to see if there is any seasonal virus going around that could be harmful to your pet.
These common sense tips can save you and your pet from serious injury from heat exhaustion and sunburn. Here’s to a safe and fun summer with man’s best friend!