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Articles > Dogs

Keeping Cool In The Dog Days Of Summer

Topic: Summer Care

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Filed under Dogs
Tags: Heat Stroke, Dehydration, Respiratory Problems, Health, Exercise

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In their natural wild state canine species such as coyotes, wolves and even foxes tend to spend most of their time in the hot summer months deep in shady areas or in cooler, low areas along waterways. While not nocturnal, they do prefer to stay relaxing and sleeping in the heat of the day, then come out and hunt and travel in the evening, morning and night hours. This natural way to monitor their body temperature puts a lower demand on their respiratory and circulatory systems and helps to keep them at a comfortable temperature. Of course staying out of the direct sun as well as limiting movement at this time also helps a lot.

Domestic pets are more attuned to living just the opposite, active in the daylight hours with their human families and sleeping during the cooler evening hours. Since domestic dogs don't have to hunt for their own food to stay alive this isn't as big of a problem for the dogs themselves. However all this activity in the heat of the day can lead to health problems including heat stroke, dehydration and even respiratory problems. Typically more common in heavy coated, obese, elderly or short muzzled dogs, any and all of these conditions can occur in any breed at any time, especially if there are other health conditions present.

Understanding a bit about your dog's internal cooling system as well as the conditions that you can develop in your yard can help your dog stay cool even on the hottest day.

Respiration and Panting

Unlike people, dogs don't have sweat glands throughout their skin. They don't sweat like we do as a way to cool down. Dogs cool off by panting, allowing evaporation from their tongue and mouth as well as using the rapid movement of air to cool down their internal core temperature. Dogs also sweat from the bottom of their feet, which is why their pads make wet prints on your sidewalk or floor when it is very hot outside or they have just come inside from a longer run.

As can be imagined, this way of cooling off is not really very efficient, especially if the dog has a massive coat and is a larger sized dog. Very rapid panting is often the first signs of heat stroke, followed by disorientation, salivating, staggering, vomiting and eventually seizure like movements or even a coma.

Exercise

The more a dog exercises the more he or she will need to breath harder or pant to cool off their internal body core temperature. This is no different than the increase in sweating and breathing humans have when they go jogging on a hot day versus jogging on a cold day. Unfortunately many owners don't stop to think about how a dog may experience temperature and expect them to jog along or engage in really intense types of exercise. Limiting higher intensity activities to the early morning or later evening hours can allow your dog to stay cool while still getting the benefits of lots of routine exercise. Another option may be to take your dog to a lake and allow them to get into the water and swim. Running in shallow water also helps to keep the body cool as the feet, one of the heat releasing areas, are constantly in cooler temperatures.

Another option that is recommended for dogs is to wet a bandana or scarf and put it in the freezer. This can then be taken out and tied around the dog's neck to provide a sort of a very flexible ice pack. While it won't keep your dog cool for long periods of time it is really good on smaller dogs and dogs with short coats as a quick cool off option.

Make It Shady

If your dog has to stay outside and can't be kept in an air-conditioned environment, at least try to provide as much shade as possible. A doghouse that is vented to allow air circulation can work, but a completely closed in winter-style dog house will quickly become a sauna in the summer when in direct sunlight. If the more winterized doghouse can be placed in complete shade they may be acceptable depending on just how hot it will actually get in your climate area.

Finding a shady place in the yard and wetting down the soil every morning can help your dog find a cool place to lie down and relax while you are gone. This will, of course, mean that the dog may have a bit of mud on them when you get home, but if you just dampen and not soak the area is often minimal. Some dogs will also use a children's wading pool to stand and sit it to cool off. Again, placement in the shade and not in direct sunlight is important or the water will heat up and become uncomfortable.

Lots of Water

Dogs need a huge amount of water in the summer months, especially when outdoors. Provide at least one large watering dish in a safe place that cannot be knocked over while you are away. Many owners set up a water dish under an outdoor spigot, and then set the tap on to a drip. This provides constant fresh and slightly cool water, ensuring that the dog always has access to water.

Automatic waterers, fountains and even fresh ponds can all be great ideas to add to your landscape but also provide fresh water for your dog. If you do have a pond be sure to use a recirculating pump and filter to prevent the water from developing bacteria or becoming stagnant.

Stay Indoors To Beat The Heat

When the outdoor temperature starts to get up into the higher ranges, especially if over the 90 to 100 degree Fahrenheit mark, it is really important to very carefully monitor your dog. Ideally in these temperatures the dogs should be kept in an air conditioned area of the house to prevent any possible health problems. Brachycephalic or short-muzzled breeds such as the Pug, Boxer, Boston Terrier and even Pomeranians and Shih Tzus should not be outdoors in these weather conditions. High humidity can also cause respiratory problems, and if coupled with hot temperatures owners need to be highly vigilant for the first signs of heat stroke and possible respiratory stress and problems.

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