As the days of summer get longer, it's important to take extra care of your pets. While they may enjoy basking in the warm sun, they are also at risk of suffering from heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
This is why taking some precautions when playing with your dog in the summer heat is important. In this post, we'll discuss how to safely have fun with your dog this summer, as well as warning signs to watch out for.
Every dog has different limits
All dogs should not be treated the same when it comes to enjoying summertime activities. Some breeds have a thick double coat, making it difficult to regulate their temperature in warm weather. Other breeds have a thinner, single-layer coat that doesn't warm them up as quickly.
Suppose your dog is a brachycephalic breed. In that case, they'll have more difficulties keeping themselves cool because they tend to have trouble breathing normally. Brachycephalic breeds are those with 'flat faces', such as French bulldogs, which disrupt their airways. This affects their ability to cool down because panting is a dog's primary way of helping regulate their temperature.
Additionally, whether your dog is a large or small breed, how old they are, and how accustomed they are to warm weather all play a factor. Generally, small and young dogs have more of a tolerance to heat, whereas bigger and older dogs become uncomfortable much quicker.
When in doubt, follow this simple rule of thumb when it comes to temperatures: between 50-68°F is fine for most dogs, 70-82°F is when there's potential for it to be unsafe for some, and 84+°F is dangerous for most dogs.
Time of day matters
The time of day also matters when you're planning on spending time outdoors with your dog. The hottest part of the day is typically between 12 pm to around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. This is when the sun is at its peak, which increases the chances of your dog being uncomfortably warm.
If it's a particularly hot day, try avoiding taking your dog out during these hours. Instead, take them out for a walk or to the park in the morning or evening when it's cooler.
You should always be aware of hot pavement and asphalt. If it's too hot for you to walk on with bare feet, it's definitely too hot for your pup to be walking on. As a test, put your hand on the pavement for a few seconds. If it's too hot to leave your hand there for a few seconds, it's too hot for your dog to walk on.
Monitor their exercise
You should always monitor your dog's exercise, regardless of the season. But it's especially important in the summer when they can overheat quickly.
Make sure you're not overdoing it when playing fetch or frisbee, and take plenty of breaks. If your dog is panting heavily or seems tired, it's time to take a break.
It's also important to make sure your dog is staying hydrated.
Choose the right activity
Living in the 21st century has its perks given all the fun gadgets and toys available to help make entertaining your dog easier. However, this doesn't mean setting up something like an automatic ball launcher and letting your dog play for hours on end is a good idea. Unfortunately, dogs don't have the best understanding of their limits. Which can be very dangerous, especially when it's hot outside.
This is why being selective in what activities you choose and being their voice of reason is important. For example, activities that involve swimming are an excellent option as it's low-impact and helps keep your dog cool. If you don't have access to a pool or beach, you can always set up a kiddie pool in your backyard for them to splash around in.
Hiking is another great option as long as you take some precautions. Make sure you bring plenty of water for both you and your dog and take breaks often. It's also a good idea to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day.
If you do choose to hike, try and find a trail that has some shade so your dog can take a break in the cooler temperatures.
Last but not least, another activity that's great for summer is playing with sprinklers or a hose. Dogs love chasing water, and it's a great way to keep them cool. Just make sure the water pressure isn't too high as it can hurt their sensitive ears.
Other enjoyable ways to help keep your dog cool
Whether the activity you're playing with your dog has water involved or if it's simply a game of fetch, there are a few tasty treats your dog will love to help them cool off.
Frozen dog treats are a great way to help your pup cool down. You can buy them at the store or make them yourself at home. One you can try is simply pouring some chicken broth into an ice cube tray and freezing it.
You can also make your own frozen dog toys by filling a Kong toy or a ball with dog food, dog-safe peanut butter, or canned pumpkin and freezing it.
Pairing a tasty frozen treat with some shade after spending time playing outside is a great way to ensure your dog stays safe without compromising fun.
Signs your dog is getting overheated
Even if you're taking all the necessary precautions, it's still important to know the signs that your dog is getting too hot. Here are some things to watch out for:
Restlessness or agitation
Unwillingness to move
Pacing back and forth
If your dog is showing any of these signs, it's important to immediately take them to a cool, shady spot and give them plenty of water to drink. If they don't seem to be improving or are showing signs of heatstroke, call your veterinarian immediately.
Heatstroke is a serious condition that can be fatal, so it's important to take any signs of it seriously.
Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the warm weather with your dog. But it's important to take some precautions to ensure your fun activities have safety in mind.
Understanding your specific dog's limits, monitoring their exercise, choosing the right activity, and making sure they're staying hydrated are all crucial factors in keeping your dog safe in the summer heat.
If you're ever unsure of how your dog is doing, err on the side of caution and take them to a cool, shady spot. And always keep an eye out for signs of heatstroke.
Alec Littlejohn grew up in a family of vets where pet care was discussed on a daily basis. He’s also a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, recognized author by the Dog Writers Association Of America, and the lead editor at Pawscessories.