Now that summer is officially here… I know we’re all looking forward to sunshine, warmer temperatures, and getting outdoors. As wonderful as this time of year is though, it’s important to play it safe when it comes to fun in the sun for furry friends.

I love to take my dog everywhere…so it’s a hard pill to swallow when I decide to leave her home. I have to consciously remind myself that dogs have a higher body temp than we do, and less ability to cool down. Humans are covered with sweat glands, but a dog's are confined to her nose and the pads of her feet. So it’s important to remember…an overheating dog can only regulate her body temperature through panting, which isn’t terribly efficient in hot weather and in a very short period of time, an overheated dog can suffer critical damage to her brain, heart, liver and nervous system.

The main thing to avoid at all costs is…HEATSTROKE - the ultimate and often deadly result of overheating – it’s caused by a dangerous elevation in an animal's body temperature. While it most often occurs in dogs left in cars during the summer months, it can also happen in late spring and the first weeks of summer if a dog is exposed to high temperatures before they have time to acclimate to the heat.

Symptoms of overheating include: Heavy panting or rapid breathing, Elevated body temperature, Excessive thirst, Glazed eyes, Excessive drooling, Staggering, stumbling, Bright or dark red tongue, gums. This is not an exhaustive list but certainly some of the more commons signs.

In addition to hot vehicles, other contributors to pet overheating include humid conditions, lack of drinking water, obesity, overexertion, older dogs and puppies, longer hair breeds or winter type dogs and dogs that have shorter noses.

Here’s some great warmer month tips!

  1. Never, ever leave your pet alone in a parked car on a warm day. Not even for a few minutes. I know it’s tempting but on a warm day, the temperature inside your vehicle can rise quickly into the danger zone. For example, on an 80-degree day it takes only 15 minutes for the temperature inside your parked car to climb to 102 degrees. In a half hour, it can hit 120 degrees. Leaving windows cracked doesn’t drop the temperature inside the vehicle. Leaving your car running with the air conditioner on is dangerous for a whole bunch of reasons.
  2. Don't walk or exercise your pet on hot pavement. This can be a tricky one to remember (unless you’re in the habit of walking your dog barefoot), but it’s extremely important. Not only can pavement on a hot day burn your dog’s paws, but the heat rising from concrete or asphalt can quickly overheat an animal that lives close to the ground. Also don't allow your pet to stand, walk or rest on hot outdoor surfaces like sidewalks or parking lots.
  3. Exercise your dog during the coolest parts of the day. This means early in the morning or after sunset. Try to stay in the shade during daylight hours, and no matter the time of day, don't overdo outdoor exercise or play sessions. Even on an overcast day or in the evening, a long period of physical exertion in hot weather can cause heatstroke in your dog. A good rule of thumb is if outdoor temps hit 85 degrees, your pet should be indoors where it's cool.
  1. Provide plenty of fresh clean drinking water at all times. In addition to overheating, your pet can become dehydrated very rapidly in warm weather. A good general guideline is that a healthy dog should drink between ½ and 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight each day. And if she’ll be outside for any length of time, she should have access to complete shade. Periodically encourage her to play in the sprinkler or gently hose her down with cool water to prevent overheating.

That’s all I got!  Let’s be safe and have ‘a ball’ this summer, pun intended, with our dogs this summer!!