Ah Summer! –
school holidays, green grass, blue skies, and warm weather. It is a welcome change after the cold, rainy, and barren winter.
The dogs are dozing, the people are dozing, really everyone is just enjoying the season for lazy and sleepy days.
However, as the temperature rises, it goes from pleasantly warm to unpleasantly hot; then sticky, sweaty hot; then sometimes, awful, scorching hot. If it feels bad for us, imagine what it must feel like for our dogs, who always have their fur-coats on!
Dogs have more trouble staying cool than people do. Because of their thick fur, they mainly dissipate heat through panting, as well as through their paws and underbelly.
Here are some tips on how to keep our dog cool and comfortable in the hot summer months.
1. Keep our dogs well watered
Dogs need to drink a lot more when it is hot outside. Drinking will help our dog cool down, and enable better heat loss through panting.
Panting releases heat through water evaporation on the respiratory tract. The more panting that occurs, the more water our dog will have to drink to replenish the moisture lost through this process.
When picking water bowls for our dog, note that bacteria have a higher likelihood to breed in plastic water containers. The summer heat will also encourage bacterial and other organic growth, including pond scum and water algae. Use a stainless steel or ceramic water bowl to help limit bacterial contamination.
I keep my water bowls clean and fresh by washing them at least once a day. I refill them more frequently in the summer months, and make sure that my dogs always have clean water available to drink.
I use a large stainless steel water bowl outside, and two smaller stainless steel bowls inside the house. I put the outside water bowl in the shade, so that my dog can rest close to it, without being out in the hot sun.
2. Keep our dogs well sheltered
It is best to allow our dogs access to the house during hot days. The temperature will always be much cooler in the house, because it gets good insulation from our roof and walls. Use air-conditioning and ceiling fans as necessary.
If ceiling fans are not available, consider buying some stand fans, and leave some windows open for good air circulation. I place the stand fan in a cool area of the house, with my dog’s bed and toys. Elevated beds or cool surfaces, such as tile or marble floors, will also help keep our dog comfortable during the summer.
If we have an outside dog, it is important to have shaded areas in the backyard. I like shade provided by trees best, because it gives protection from the sun and still allows free airflow.
Dog houses and walled kennels are actually inappropriate during hot days.
While they may provide shade, they also trap hot air within a small, enclosed space. This may cause heatstroke, especially in instances where the dog is locked inside a dog house or kennel.
For nighttime crating, consider using a more open, wire-frame crate. Have a stand fan blowing in the vicinity if necessary.
3. Get a plastic dog wading pool
Taking a dip in the pool is a great way to cool off during the summer – for people as well as dogs.
Therefore, I bought some hard-plastic wading pools for my dogs. They are light-weight, cheap, and not as chewable as the plastic inflatable kiddie pools. Initially, I encouraged my dogs to get into the pool with fun games and food rewards. Once they are accustomed to the pool, I let them use it (or not) as they please.
The water hose game can also be a lot of fun on a hot day. First, I get a nozzle for my garden hose that shoots out a focused, jet stream of water. I make sure to control the force of the water, so that I do not hurt my dog if he gets hit by the stream. Then, I simply move the hose around and start a fun chasing game.
As with all games, make sure our dog does not get over-excited, does not jump on us, or try to attack the water hose. Do not aim the water at our dog’s face or eyes.
Not all dogs enjoy this game. Some dogs may not like chasing, or getting wet.
4. Use a cool bed and ice water bottle
During the summer, I let my Siberian Husky sleep on a dog water bed, in her crate at night. The bed helps to cool her down, as well as provides some nice cushioning for her elbow. This is especially important because she is a three legged dog, and she places more weight on her front elbow while lying down.
On really hot nights, the cool bed alone is insufficient, and my Husky has a difficult time settling down. Therefore, I also give her an ice-water bottle. I use a plastic bottle and freeze water inside. I then cover it up with an old sock, so that it is more comfortable to sleep with.
When I freeze the water bottle in the refrigerator, I slightly unscrew the bottle cap, so that there are no large changes in pressure that could crack the container.
5. Walk earlier in the morning & later in the evening
In the summer, it gets warm earlier in the morning, and does not cool down until later in the evening. The good news is that it also gets light earlier, and stays light for longer.
Therefore, I shift my walk schedule accordingly, so that my dog can enjoy cooler temperatures and a fun outing. My Shiba Inu will refuse to leave the house when it is too hot outside.
Remember to bring enough water along, and give our dog many rest breaks in the shade. Dogs will get tired faster when it is hot, because they expend more energy panting. Observe our dog, and adjust the length of the walk according to how hot, and how tired he gets.
My three legged dog gets tired much faster during the warm weather, so I shorten her walks, and give her more stops along the way.
Things to Avoid During the Summer
1. Do not leave our dog inside the car alone.
Not even if we have the windows open, and not even for short periods of time. A car can heat up very quickly.
People at HowStuffWorks showed how the temperature within a car can climb from 75 degrees F to 110 degrees F within 15 minutes. This can be fatal to a dog, who cannot dissipate body heat as quickly as we can.
Most dog heatstroke cases are from people leaving their dogs inside the car, or in enclosed crates and kennels.
2. Do not leave our dog in the backyard alone, without water and proper shade.
If we must leave our dog home alone, then leave him inside the house, with a good supply of clean water. I also close the shades where the sun is strongest, and make sure there is good air circulation. Alternatively, we can install a dog door so that he can easily go in and out, as he so chooses. In this case, I leave some fresh and clean water outside as well.
3. Do not over exercise our dog.
Activity will tire a dog out more quickly during the summer months. Make sure not to over-exercise our dog.
If we walk our dog on a treadmill, do not leave him there unattended. Treadmill sessions should always be supervised, in any kind of weather.