Did you know that dogs don’t sweat the same way as humans? Sure, they have sweat glands, but only in their paws. This is because they are typically covered in fur, so if they sweat in areas with fur, it will not evaporate and cool dogs down like they are supposed to. Paws have very little fur, so it makes sense to have sweat glands there.
This is true even for dog breeds with very little or very short hair. Evolution, you see.
If you’re feeling a bit envious, don’t be. The inability of dogs to sweat as much as humans do means they are more likely to overheat when the weather is hot.
Dogs with mobility issues are particularly vulnerable because they might not be able to easily move to the shade or get a drink of water. It helps if they have a dog wheelchair, but not if they have overheated to the point of exhaustion.
Note: NEVER leave your dog in a car on a warm day, even in the shade and with a window cracked.
Tips to keep dogs safe in summer
It is important that you make sure your furry friends do not overheat, especially as summer days are progressively hitting higher temperatures every year. Some dog breeds tolerate warm weather, and even thrive in it, but only within reasonable limits. You still need to make sure they stay cool and hydrated. Here are some tips.
Keep water around at all times
Make sure your dog has access to drinking water at all times. Dogs can’t get it for themselves, so that’s your job. When you bring your dog out for a walk on a hot day, have a small bowl or collapsible dog dish handy to put in water.
Have good ventilation
Keeping your dog indoors is a good idea, but the ambient temperature can still set the mercury rising. Open windows for cross-ventilation and turn on fans. Alternatively, turn on the air conditioner and set it at a comfortable temperature.
If you have a dog with very little hair or have white fur, they can get sunburn. It sounds weird, but there are sunscreen formulations specifically for dogs. Use them on any surface exposed to the sun such as bellies, ears, and noses.
Ice, ice, baby
Many dogs love to crunch on ice cubes, so use that predilection to keep their bodies cool. Give them small pieces of ice as a snack and put a few in their water bowl. You can also put their chew toys in the freezer for an hour or so and have them chew on those.
Keep an eye on them
Healthy dogs are very active, especially disabled dogs that have been given a new spell of mobility with a dog wheelchair. You need to make sure they don’t overdo the physical activity, especially outdoors. Even swimming can be a problem if they overdo it because they get too tired. Have them take frequent breaks between playing and exercising.
Test the ground
You might not notice it at once with your shoes on, but concrete pavements can get pretty toasty on a hot summer’s day. Before taking your dog out for a walk, put your hand on the surface. If you find it uncomfortably hot for your hand, then it is too hot for your dog’s paws. It might be a better idea to schedule your walks in the early morning or late evening to be on the safe side for both you and your furry buddy.
Know the signs of heatstroke
Dogs can usually regulate their body temperature by sweating through their paws and panting. However, when it is very hot, these may not be enough.
Heatstroke happens when the body’s temperature goes beyond the normal range. In dogs, that is between 100.2 and 102.8 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a pretty narrow range. It is dangerous when it goes past 104⁰, and when it reaches 106⁰, that can lead to heatstroke.
Your dog may be starting to overheat if they are breathing faster than normal even when not moving, and they are salivating much more as well. Muscle tremors, staggering, and fatigue also indicate they are in a distressed state.
Warning: Overheating CAN lead to death in dogs. If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, do what you can to lower the body temperature immediately before heading over to the vet.
Some of the things you can do are bringing them indoors and wrapping their bellies in towels soaked in cool water. Do not use cold water as this can bring down their temperature too rapidly and put them into shock. Take their temperature every 5 minutes until it goes down to 103⁰ then bring them to a vet.
Summertime can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous. Overheating and heatstroke is a real thing, and they can have serious consequences. Following these tips will help you in keeping your furry friends cool during summer.