Pets can be sensitive to extreme temperatures, and heat is just as dangerous for dogs as it is for humans–sometimes more so, since their internal cooling systems aren’t as robust.How do you know your pet is having a heat stroke?You’ll notice things like heavy panting and a racing heartbeat, extreme thirst, lethargy, lightheadedness, and/or erratic behavior. Your pet may also experience vomiting, diarrhea, and even seizures. Heat stroke can have fatal consequences, so follow these tips to prevent these fates from befalling your dog.
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#1. Location, Location, Location
If an environment would be uncomfortable for you, it’s probably not ideal for your pet. Dogs’ internal body temperatures are very close to humans’ – averaging around 102° F, not much higher than our 98.6°. And unlike humans, dogs are often unable to get themselves to safety when temps skyrocket.So, never leave your pet alone in the car. Even in balmy weather, cars trap heat and can quickly get unsafe (cracked windows won’t actually help). Your dog should not be outside unsupervised for long stretches of time, and you should seek shade outdoors when possible.
Avoid walking on asphalt paths on very hot days— without shoes to protect their feet, dogs paws can get burned even on a short walk
#2. Monitor Exercise
You’ve probably noticed that dogs like to run around….a lot. An excitable pet can have trouble regulating their own capacity for movement.
If your dog has aged a few years but still thinks they’re a puppy, or runs until they collapse when a new acquaintance or old friend stops by, keep a close eye on your pet’s health. Are they overdoing their exercise? Is there a way to slow them down before they get to that point?This is especially important if your pet is playing in direct sunlight during the hottest part of the day. Bring your pet into shade or inside right away if you’re concerned about over-exertion, and be sure they always have plenty of fresh, cold water available.
#3. The Hydration Game
Ideally, dogs let you know when they need water, and drink what they need when it’s available. But some pets won’t seek out hydration until they’re already in a critical state.
So whenever you’re out for more than a quick walk, you should have a water bottle and collapsible bowl on you. If you’re getting tired and thirsty, give your pet a chance to rest and drink up.Dogs love to drink from moving water. If they don’t always hydrate enough, consider a bubbling fountain bowl for home, and keep the water fresh and cold.
Watch to be sure they drink water before and after meals, and after exercise. If they’re playing outside on hot days, provide a water bowl with ice.
#4. Check Humidity
When you’re checking the weather, keep an eye on the humidity. If it’s high, your dog will be at higher risk for heat stroke. So don’t plan strenuous outdoor activity on very humid days, and make sure your dog stays hydrated, relaxed, and out of direct sunlight if they do go out to play.
#5. Stay Indoors
Just as you go out of your way to avoid excessive sun exposure, you need to take appropriate precautions for your pet. When the temperature or humidity are high and there’s little shade in sight, keep your pet indoors as much as possible.
There may be days when you only take them out to potty and go for a quick walk. Don’t feel as if you’re depriving your pet–there will be other chances to play outside, and there’s plenty they can do to entertain themselves indoors.
Consider exercising your pup on a treadmill inside where you can control the temperature.
#6. Doggy Pool
You can fill a kiddie pool with cold water, ice cubes, and fun toys for safe backyard play. Be sure to keep the water in the pool clean and fresh. Standing water can become a haven for mosquito larvae, increasing the chances of mosquito borne illnesses which affect dogs and people alike.
Be sure to supervise your pup, and take them inside if the heat gets extreme.
#7. Make a Plan
If you’re running errands, know exactly how you’ll navigate your routine so you without leaving your pet alone in the car. Hire a pet-sitter for the afternoon, use drive-through services, or patronize pet-friendly stores.
Your pet’s health is too important to sacrifice for your own convenience!
#8. Keep the A/C Running
In the summer, you might be tempted to leave the air conditioner on only when you’re home, to save on power costs. But the fact is that you’ll spend more money re-cooling the house once you’re home than you’d save by cutting it out–and your pets need a comfortable temperature, too.
They may not mind the house a few degrees higher than you like it, but the indoor temperature shouldn’t rise above 80° while they’re on their own.
#9. Regular Check-Ups
Your vet can monitor internal health markers and let you know if your pet has any risk factors for heat stroke that indicate extra care is warranted. And if you do notice signs of heat stroke, call your vet’s emergency number or take your pet to their office immediately–if your dog needs treatment, a quick response is critical to save their life.
#10. Communicate with Caretakers
If you hire a pet-sitter, communicate clearly about your pet’s limitations and any concerns you have about heat stroke, as well as the precautions you take on hot days. While sitters are experienced and reliable, they may not be familiar with your dog’s unique physiology or notice that it’s an especially humid day. Let them know what to watch out for, especially if your dog is prone to over-exercise or would love to spend all day under the sun.
If you stay aware and follow these protocols, your pet will beat the heat even on the worst days. And as you remember that you need to drink lots of water too, you’ll realize that looking out for your pet probably helps you take better care of yourself while you’re at it!
Sharon Elber (M.S. in Science & Technology) – Professional Dog Trainer
Sharon is a professional dog trainer with over 10 years experience. She is also a professional writer that received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech.For more info on Sharon click here