Summer's Dog Days  (How to keep your dog cool and not suffer from heat stress)

Summer's Dog Days

(How to keep your dog cool and not suffer from heat stress)

While the “dog days” of summer roll on, we think about ways to keep ourselves cool while we recreate outdoors, but what about our dogs?  How can they stay cool, yet active, like they desire?  With temperatures often topping the century mark, precautions must be taken to ensure our dog’s optimal health.

Dogs often can’t, or won’t, take care to monitor their own needs.  They are akin to toddlers in that respect.  Our dogs need consistent supervision while playing or exercising in hot weather.  While dogs wearing fur coats in the summer months might be natural, it doesn’t make it any less hot or uncomfortable for him.  Worse yet, try exercising in fur!  Many dogs are perpetual motion machines.  In general, only senior dogs lay around most of the day and therefore are able to stay cool enough to regulate their body temperature when it is very hot. While being outside with him is exciting to him, proper care should be taken so he won’t become overheated.  Various strategies must be adopted to minimize the chance that your dog will over-do it, otherwise there is a potential for disastrous results.

If you usually exercise your dog mid-day, try changing the time when you do work him.  Early mornings or later in the evenings are generally more desirable exercise times.   Simply changing the time of exercise can help minimize a possible heat-related problem.  Since dogs can only quickly expel heat from their mouths and bottoms of their feet, they take longer to cool down than humans.  It makes sense to exercise them when the outside temperatures are a bit milder.  In some areas of the country, the humidity can also be a factor to recovering from heat.  Humidity prevents quick evaporation.  Since evaporation is a cooling process, the faster the evaporation, the faster the cooling of a body will be.  Mornings typically have less humidity and lower temperatures, thus fewer problems with recovery.

Take the middays off for resting.  This is typically the hottest part of the day and should be avoided as a time for engaging in exercise.  Who really wants to be out there in steaming weather?!  Move indoors.  Typically, it is a lot cooler inside the house, and your dog will appreciate spending the middle of the day inside a cool home.

Take breaks more often.  Shorter workouts with more breaks prevent your dog from becoming over-heated, as he could in a longer straight workout.  Allow your dog to cool down for a bit, and then exercise some more.

Offer plenty of cool water.  This can be for drinking, or to take a nice dip.  Many dogs won’t drink right after a workout.  They will generally wait a minute or two; so don’t be too concerned if he doesn’t drink immediately.  If you offer a place for a hot dog to lie down in some cool water, he will probably do so, helping to regulate the temperature of the blood that is close to the skin’s surface    Evaporation off the surface of his body will also aid in cooling him. 

In case you over-do exercise on a hot day, and you are concerned for your dog’s well-being, place him in a cool water bath and allow him to drink while he is lying there.  In addition, place a fan by him to aid in the evaporative process. 

Here is an example of animals being over heated just like dogs can be. A few years ago, we had a heat spell (113 degrees) and no one was used to it.  Some of our chickens went into their coop and piled on one another… and died.  One chicken was still alive but totally unresponsive.  I brought the chicken out of the coop and into the shaded barn, grabbed a fan, and put her in front of it.  I watered down the entire coop including the outside dirt area to bring down the surrounding air temperature.  A few minutes later, I soaked the surviving hen in a bucket of water for about a half an hour, then took her out and positioned her back in front of the fan.  After about two hours, she started coming around.  That night she spent separated from the other chickens, but was up and about by morning, ready to join her friends. If your dog is in this kind of distress, you will want to take him to a veterinarian immediately.  We don’t want this scary scenario to happen to our beloved dogs, so appropriate care needs to be taken when exercising them in hot weather.

Simple changes in your exercise routine can make all of the difference in the world to your dog during the “dog days” of summer.  Changing in the time that you exercise him (with mornings probably being the best), to shorter workouts with more frequent breaks can allow your dog more time to cool down.  Try taking the mid-day off and offer him the cool indoors to spend the afternoon.  After exercise, offer cool water and/or a cool bath to dip in.  In addition, don’t worry if he doesn’t drink immediately.  However, make sure that he does drink water eventually.  If he is distressed, place the wet dog in front of a fan in the shade. This will cool him down faster, and minimize the after affects of heat related stress.

This article has been written as information only.  Seek a veterinarian immediately if heat stress is suspected.


Submitted by:Stephanie Summers

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