How to keep your dog safe on hot days

Tips to keep pooch safe when temperatures soar

Dog days of summer can be “ruff” on man’s best friend.

While most people know better than to leave a pet in a vehicle on a hot day, owners still need to “paws” to think about what’s best for their furry friends during the hottest and muggiest times of year.

“Prevention is best,” when it comes to dogs and high temperatures, says Dr. Elaine Degrandpre, senior veterinary medical officer for NAIT's animal health programs. Try to stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day, usually 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Here are her tips for keeping your dog safe in the summer heat.

Cars aren't cool

dog in car

Leave your dog at home if you need to run an errand. “Even if it’s in the 20s and the sun is shining on the car, in a matter of minutes it becomes an oven and the poor dog is baking,” says Degrandpre.

Cracking windows will not adequately cool a vehicle and the result can be heatstroke or severe heat exhaustion. If you must bring your dog, have someone sit with it outside in the shade and provide water.

Give them shelter

Ensure your dog has somewhere to escape the broiling sun. At minimum, provide a dog house and lots of fresh water. Consider bringing your dog inside on hot days.

Skip the workout

“Ask yourself: Would you do a full-speed run in this weather? If you think it’s hot out there, then it’s hot for your dog,” says Degrandpre. Like you, dogs need to limit exercise on hot days. But they don't know when to quit. Dogs are pleasers and will try to keep fetching and running even though they’re overheating.

Preserve the paws

dog paws on hot pavement

“If it’s too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for your dog,” says Degrandpre. Sun-baked pavement can burn a dog’s paws. If you must head out in the heat, have the dog walk on grass or go out when it’s cooler, such as early morning or evening.

Protect sensitive skin

Short-coated, fair-haired or light-skinned dogs can burn easily. Unless you can find a natural product free of zinc-oxide, Degrandpre doesn’t recommend sunscreen for dogs because they may lick it.

Act immediately

Be aware of signs that your dog is overheating, such as

  • appears depressed
  • slow to move or get up
  • can’t stop panting

If you see these signs, immediately move your dog to shade if you’re outside. If inside, put the animal in front of a fan. Offer small quantities of water. Your dog should start to appear better within minutes to an hour.

If not, heatstroke can be fatal, even with treatment, and it comes on quickly. Signs include

  • dog is on its side and not moving
  • may or not be panting
  • eyes seem unfocused, or staring off in space
  • body feels hot
  • rapid heartbeat
  • the dog may collapse

If your dog is showing these symptoms, try to cool dog and seek professional treatment as soon as possible.

The most vulnerable canines

Dogs with a shorter snout or squished face, like a pug, boxer or bulldog, have a higher risk of breathing troubles when they get hot. Older or overweight dogs, puppies and canines with health issues overheat more quickly than others.

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