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Keep your dog cool this summer: hot weather safety tips

Published on 29 Oct 2021

keep your dog cool this summer

Summer is on its way, with all the fun, warm, outdoor opportunities that brings with it. But summer can also bring some hazards for our dogs. Heatstroke, dehydration, sunburn, and burnt paws are just some of the problems which come with warmer weather. 

Fortunately there is plenty we can do to ensure our pets have a safe and happy summer. Modifications to your environment, feeding, and exercise routines for your dog can all contribute to your dog's summer wellbeing. Certain animals must be treated with extra care in hot conditions, specifically all the brachycephalic dogs- those with short noses such as Pugs and Bulldogs, and the young and old.

Dog summer safety Dos and Don’ts 

1. Provide a safe, cool environment

  • If possible give your dog access to the house during the heat of the day
  • If it is not possible to allow your dog in the house then ensure your outdoor space has all the following features:
    • Adequate shade throughout the day
    • Fresh water available at all times
    • Preferably ventilated such that there is a breeze
    • Preferably with greenery such as grassed areas, as greenery helps to cool the ambient temperature down
  • Spend a decent amount of time in your dog's outdoor space in the middle of a hot day before you leave them there alone- if it is not comfortable for you to spend time in, it is not going to be cool enough for your dog.
  • Consider leaving your dog with a frozen treat, for example you can freeze wet food to a Lickimat
  • Do not leave your dog unattended for an extended period of time. 

2. Don’t leave your dog in the car

Even when the weather is only in the twenties, cars can heat to dangerous temperatures, even if the windows are down. Leaving dogs in the car is an absolute no no.

3. Time your walks to avoid the hottest time of the day, or cancel them altogether

  • Before taking your dog for a walk, try placing the palm of your hand on the walking surface for a few minutes. If it is too hot for your hand it is too hot for your dog
  • Consider not walking your dog at all if the weather is still hot in the morning or evening.
  • Consider if you do walk to keep the duration short, and keep your dog on the lead when walking in warm weather. Dogs rushing about off lead can heat up much more quickly than when constrained to a human walking pace. 

4. Always provide shade and consider using sunscreen

  • Just like us, dogs can develop skin cancer from excessive UV exposure
  • Keep your dog protected from the sun, especially between 10am-4pm.
  • Consider using a dog sunscreen on light skinned and hairless parts if you need to take your dog out in the sun. Try the sunscreen on a small area first to check there is no reaction

5. Don't forget the other hazards inherent in summer

  • Keep up to date on external parasite protection, especially if you are in a tick area, as paralysis ticks tend to be around more in warmer weather
  • Remember that snakes are also out in force in hot weather. Bear this in mind walking in bushland, and keep grass short around the house.
  • Consider water safety when your pet is at the beach, or around pools or dams.
  • Make sure you have a bushfire plan that includes your pets, if you live in a potential bushfire affected area.
  • Don't let your dog overindulge on festive foods. Dogs are very sensitive to fat, and often develop pancreatitis from Christmas leftovers. Sticking to dog treats is safer.
  • Don't let your dog drink sea water if you take them to the beach
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Dangers of hot weather for dogs

Heatstroke dangers for dogs

Heatstroke is a common medical emergency in hot places, and unfortunately it is frequently fatal. Risk factors for heat stroke include:

  • High environmental temperature
  • Lack of ventilation
  • Humidity
  • Breed factors such as having a shortened nose (brachycephalic)
  • Excessive activity combined with high temperature
  • Underlying health issues such as respiratory compromise
  • Age factors - the risk is higher in old and young dogs

Signs of heatstroke in dogs

Dogs developing heatstroke will initially seem restless and distressed and may pant extremely hard. They may drool excessively, may collapse, and you might notice their gums turning blue. 

Treatment of heatstroke in dogs

Heatstroke is a true emergency, and the top priority is to get your dog to a vet. In the meantime, you can place cool towels on the armpits and groin and apply cold water to the paws and ear flaps. This can be done in the car on the way to the vet clinic. Call ahead to let your vet or the emergency centre know that you are on your way, so they can be ready to treat your dog. 

Dehydration dangers for dogs

In general, dogs provided with adequate fresh water are good at keeping themselves hydrated. Once dogs become dehydrated though, they can become very sick quite quickly.  Some risk factors for dehydration include:

・ Inadequate access to fresh drinking water 

・ Underlying health problems such as chronic kidney disease

・ Concurrent gastrointestinal problems- dogs who are vomiting or have diarrhoea will lose a lot of fluid

In hot weather dogs can lose more fluid, and may be at risk of dehydration, especially if they are very active, or have any underlying health conditions. 

Dog dehydration symptoms

Dehydrated dogs will often have a dull demeanour. They may be very thirsty, and will gulp water down when it is offered. The dog's gums may be a bit “tacky”, or dry, but this is hard to assess if you are not normally inspecting your dog's gums.

If they are severely dehydrated the skin on their scruff may be slow to return to its normal position if you gently pinch it. Additionally in severe dehydration the eyes may appear sunken. If your dog appears severely dehydrated, urgent veterinary attention should be sought.  

Dog dehydration treatment

Prevention is much better than cure! The key thing is to make sure your dog always has water available. If you go out for a walk, take water with you, especially if the weather is warm. When you leave your dog alone, make sure there is enough water to last until you get back, in a container that your dog cannot spill. 

If you feel your dog is at risk of excessive fluid loss, for example if they are having diarrhoea, or are going to be doing a moderate amount of exercise, you can offer them electrolytes in their water.

Avoid your dog becoming dehydrated in summer by avoiding overexerting them and by keeping them in a cool environment. 

If you are concerned your dog may have mild dehydration, offer them some water and see if their demeanour improves. If your dog does not rapidly return to normal then please seek advice from your vet. 

Sunburn

Keep your dog in shade at the peak of the day and consider using sunscreen on light skinned and hairless areas. Please discuss with your vet if your dog has any signs of sunburn, such as red and irritated skin after sun exposure. 

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Cooling and hydration tips

  • Limit any exercise to cool parts of the day
  • Consider offering electrolytes with water if exercise has to occur during warm weather
  • Take water with you when you go out walking or by car
  • Consider offering your dog a higher proportion of wet food in their diet during summer, as wet food is mostly water
  • Consider offering a few different water sources, such as a water fountain, to encourage adequate water consumption
  • Ask your vet if you have any concerns about your dog's ability to cope with the warm conditions. 

How to keep your dog cool in summer

  • Provide a cool environment as described above. If you have a brachycephalic, or otherwise vulnerable pet, take extra care in hot weather and ideally keep your pet inside in the hottest parts of the day.
  • Avoid excess exercise. This can mean avoiding any exercise at all on really hot days. 
Summer Dog Safety Tips

Pet Summer Safety FAQs

How Long Can dogs stay outside in hot weather?

How long your dog can safely stay outside is a difficult question to answer because it depends on so many factors. These include how hot it is, how humid it is, and your dog's breed, age, and general health. A good test of whether it is safe to be outside is to spend time in the outdoor space yourself. If it is not comfortable for you to be out there, it is not okay for your dog either. 

I think my dog overheated, do I need to go to the vet? 

Err on the side of caution if you think your dog really overheated, if they showed any sign of collapse, or excessive drooling, or if they just seem to be not recovering, it is better to get them checked out. Heatstroke is deadly. 

Can I leave my dog near the pool?

Be careful with dogs around bodies of water, as you would for children. Dogs can drown if they fall into pools. It is best to have a safe contained space for your dog which is separate to the pool area. 

References

  1. Hyperthermia (Heat Stroke): First Aid, accessed 24/10/21
  2. Tips and tricks for using the LickiMat for your dog, accessed 24/10/21
  3. Dehydration: First Aid, accessed 24/10/21
  4. Hot weather safety tips, accessed 24/10/21

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Heather Lance

Heather Lance

Veterinarian

Heather has been a practising vet since 2008 and finds daily joy in meeting people and their beautiful fur kids. With a love of all animals, Heather has a particular fascination for cats. Heather and family are blessed to live with three beautiful moggies, Charlie, Kitani, and Surinda, and one splendid Golden Retriever, Pickle.

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