By Kim Gilliam
As the weather warms up, us dog owners are excited to explore the great outdoors with our four-legged best friend by our side. But before getting too excited about beach trips, patio hangouts and camping adventures, you’ll want to make sure you are fully prepared. Let’s think through how to keep your pooch safe from the heat and what products you might want to have on-hand to ensure they are hydrated, happy and healthy.
When our pets play outside, they don’t always know they are overheating. It’s important to recognize the warning signs of exercise-induced, heat-related illness. While human bodies can sweat efficiently to cool off, dogs don’t have that ability. The main way they cool down is to pant – moving air in and out of their bodies.
The most telling symptom of heatstroke in dogs is excessive panting. Other symptoms may include signs of discomfort such as drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness or loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movement and collapse.
Heatstroke in dogs can indicate a serious medical problem and can cause unseen problems, such as swelling of the brain, kidney failure, intestinal bleeding and abnormal clotting of blood. For this reason, immediate veterinary care is highly recommended.
If you think your dog has heat stroke, remove the dog from the hot environment immediately and call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency animal hospital to tell them you are on your way. Travel with the windows open and the air conditioner on.
Do not give your dog aspirin to lower its temperature, as that can lead to other problems, but do let your dog drink as much cool water as they want without forcing them to drink. You can also cool your dog off with cold water by placing a soaked towel on their back.
Some dogs are more prone to heat stroke than others. Dogs with thick fur, short noses or those suffering from some medical conditions are predisposed to heatstroke, but even dogs who enjoy constant exercise and playtime should be closely monitored. Remember that on sunny days, roads and trails can absorb the heat and be much hotter than the air temperature. On hot or humid days, it may just be best to stay inside or find shade, limiting your pet’s activity.
As always, it’s best to be prepared. Consider making a few key purchases to help your dog safely enjoy the summer:
• Dog sunscreen: The American Kennel Club advises that human sunscreen can be toxic for dogs if ingested, so it’s best to use a sunblock specially formulated for their skin, especially for hairless breeds, those with light colored fur or pink noses.
• Swimming pool/splash pad: Make the back yard, deck, or even balcony an oasis for your dog with a foldable pool or splash pad that can be stored when not in use.
• Doggie baseball cap: This cap is as ridiculously cute as it is effective in keeping the sun out of your dog’s eyes and providing sun protection.
• Elevated cooling bed/ canopy: A raised mesh bed and/or canopy can ensure your pup has a cool place to lay, no matter what outdoor adventures you take.
• Portable dog water bottle: A water container and bowl in one, this is a must have for dogs on the go; make sure your dog stays hydrated.
• Water additives: Dogs need one to three ounces of water per pound of body weight each day. If they don’t drink enough on their own, add this tasty treat to the water bowl to make it more appealing.
• Freezable dog bowl: Pull these out of the freezer to keep water cool for up to eight hours. It’s a refreshing treat for your pup on a warm day.
• Cooling gel pet mat: Made from body temperature-regulating, non-toxic gel, place one in a crate or on the floor to help your dog cool off on hot days.
Understanding the hazards of summer and preparing accordingly will make the time more enjoyable for you and your canine companion.
The writer co-owns Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym in Alexandria, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.