How do dogs cool off?
Dogs have very few sweat glands and do not cool by sweating.
In order to cool their bodies they rely on breathing out hot air and inhaling cooler air through their nose and mouth. In the Houston heat breathing in cool air is not too easy to do.
Dogs also seek out water and shade. When your dog goes wading in the mucky hot puddles or plunges into the bayou or digs deep into the flower bed he is not trying to get dirty…he is trying to get cool. And maybe get dirty too.
When the temperature is above 85 degrees many dogs will overheat if not supplied with shade, water and a fan. An inexpensive wading pool, running sprinkler, a covered porch or shade tree, a window fan and a big bowl of cool fresh water is often enough for most dogs if they must be kept outside. Temperatures above 90 degrees can cause overheating and heat stroke in any dog that is left in the yard unsupervised. Be careful you pet has a cool area the shelter from the HEAT.
A summer trim may help your dog to cool down in the heat. Avoid a too close shave which may make the pet more susceptible to solar injury.
What dogs are at highest risk to overheating?
Remember if your dog is old, ill, short nosed, has any chronic illness or is less than 6 months old it should probably be kept indoors during the heat.
Healthy dogs will often be so enthusiastic about exercising with their owner that they will not stop despite feeling overheated. Allow for rest periods in the shade even if your dog seems fine.
Exercising in the Summer
Make sure your dog is in good shape before taking him out in the heat for exercise.
Visit the Vet
A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pets get tested for heartworms especially if have not been on preventive medicine. Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos and Houston has an abundance of these pests year round. Your dog should be on preventative medications all year round.
When to exercise.
Mornings are best; the temperature is often cooler and quite comfortable. Not all lifestyles allow owners to exercise their dogs in the morning. Early evening is the next best time but be aware the temperature can still be very high. Watch out for hot pavement. You may be wearing shoes but your dog is not. Many years ago I could not figure out why my dog kept pulling me into the grass. I took off my sandals and put my bare foot on the pavement. It was so hot I too had to hop onto the grass. Remember PAVEMENT CAN BE VERY HOT ON YOUR DOGS BARE FEET.
What to bring with you for yourself and your dog.
WATER. ALWAYS BRING ENOUGH WATER FOR YOU AND YOUR DOG. Wear a camel bag with cool water in it. This will cool your back and give you something to drink. Bring a cooling towel. They really work to help cool your skin.
Cooling vests for your dog. Demo on Fulton
Back pack for your dog containing water a bowl and perhaps a snack. demo
Warning signs that your dog may be over heating.
Panting excessively, gum color that may be brick red or purplish, dog stopping or trying to stop and seek shade, dog becoming confused or collapsing.
What to do if your dog overheats.
Get your dog in the shade. Wet the dog with cool water especially the feet and belly. Offer water but do not force the dog to drink. Seek veterinary care immediately if your dog does not respond quickly.
Never leave your pet in a parked car. Cars can heat up very quickly and reach temperatures of 180 degrees. Even a car parked in the shade will heat up quickly.
Although many dogs are great swimmers they can foolishly get in the pool with no plan on how to get out. Be sure and train your pet to recognize where the steps are to exit the pool. Place an umbrella, flag, or some other large visible object near the steps and teach your dog to look for it when in the water. Older dogs that have some visual or senile impairment and young dogs should not be left unattended by a pool. They can fall or jump in and forget how to get out.
Although barbecues are fun for the whole family encourage your guests not to feed leftovers to your dog. These can cause mild stomach upsets but can also cause more serious conditions necessitating a visit to the vet.
In general cats will seek out cool places and relax. Overheating is not usually a problem except with the very young, old, Ill or short nosed cats. Keep these indoors during the hottest summer days.
Have a fun and safe time in the Summer.