Record-breaking heat is already baking parts of California—San Francisco Airport hit an unheard-of 100 degrees this week. While you may be struggling to stay cool, don’t forget your furry friend needs relief from the heat, too! We’ve got some simple expert tips to keep your pup safe during the dog days of summer.
Bring Outdoor Dogs Inside
Leaving your dog outside during a heat spell is not a good idea, even in the shade. Dogs sweat only through their paw pads and essentially panting, so it’s much more difficult for them to keep cool.
“Also keep in mind dogs who do not shed and do not have protective coats,” California dog trainer and certified behavioral therapist Beverly Ulbrich suggests. “Unlike dogs with fur who sometimes even have double coats and oils to protect their skin from weather, these dogs feel the heat immediately on their skin—just like humans.”
Some of the breeds with hair—not fur—include:
- Shih Tzus
Keep the Water Flowing
Staying hydrated is a major part of keeping safe. Make sure your dog has access to plenty of water. If you’re out for a walk, portable water dispensers are clutch. You can usually find them at discount stores like TJMaxx or Marshalls. Amazon always has good deals, too!
Your dog can lick ice, but there are instances where you need to be careful: hard ice can fracture a dog’s teeth and ingesting ice (or water) too quickly can cause bloat. We detailed more about giving your dog ice in our partnership article with Rover.com’s blog, The Daily Treat.
Trainer tip: Use an ice pack from the freezer and put it under a blanket or towel and ask your dog to lie down on top of it. “It’s a great, safe way for them to cool down,” Ulbrich says.
Protect Paw Pads
Your dog’s paw pads are no match for the sizzle of the asphalt.
“Asphalt and other non-natural surfaces can easily exceed 125 degrees, which can burn your pooch’s paws,” Certified Consulting Meteorologist Jan Null explains. “Veterinarians say burns can occur when the surface exceeds 125 degrees. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t stand to be barefoot, then don’t let your dog walk on it!”
Null took measurements of various surfaces during a Bay Area (California) heatwave, recording temperatures of 141 degrees for asphalt, 133 degrees on the sidewalk, 113 degrees on sunny grass, and 82 degrees on shady grass.
It’s best to avoid hot ground altogether but if your dog must go out, stay on the (preferably shady) grass.
You can invest in doggy shoes, but some pups have difficulty adjusting to walking in them at first. Try them out in the house a few times first before venturing outside—and don’t be surprised if your dog walks really funny in them the first time!
Trainer tip: Touch the ground with your hand and leave it on the ground for a few seconds. “If it feels uncomfortable to you, it is most likely going to hurt their paw pads,” Ulbrich says.
Wet Their Fur
Keeping your dog’s fur wet in the heat will help keep his body temperature down through a process called evaporative cooling. Evaporative cooling basically wicks heat away from the body—as the water “dries,” it’s really just changing phases, evaporating from liquid water to water vapor, which results in a heat transfer from the body to the air.
“It’s the same cooling you feel when you get out of a swimming pool,” Null says.
A cooling vest doubles down on this by reflecting the sun’s rays and keeping your dog’s fur wet to keep evaporative cooling constant.
Don’t Leave Your Dog in the Car
Not for five minutes, not with the windows rolled down—never! Okay, maybe with the engine running and the AC cranked, but that’s it!
Cars are like ovens, even with the windows cracked. With an outside air temperature of 85 degrees, the interior temperature of the car will soar to 104 degrees in ten minutes—which is the critical temperature to develop heatstroke. Add your dog’s fur coat and essentially the inability to sweat to the mix, and it gets dangerous in a hurry for our pets.
“People always underestimate how hot cars get and how rapidly they get to potentially lethal temperatures,” Null adds.
Know Your Dog
It’s true, some dogs can be more tolerant of slightly warmer temperatures. It’s the sudden extremes that can be worrisome, especially for certain breeds of dogs with shorter snouts, like:
- Boston Terriers
- Shih Tzus
“These dogs are affected by heat much faster and worse than other dogs with a typically long snout,” Ulbrich explains.
Be aware of your dog’s reaction to the heat—and be careful!
“If you are concerned, check to make sure their gums aren’t light colored or dry,” Ulbrich adds.
Seek medical attention right away if you feel your dog may be suffering from heatstroke.
The Bottom Line
It’s not just us trying the escape the heat—our dogs need to stay cool, too! Use common sense when it comes to keeping your dog safe: if you don’t want to do it, neither does your dog!
This article is not meant to be a substitute for professional veterinary or training advice. Seek professional help if you think your dog may be suffering from heat injury.