Be Smart in this Summer Heat with your Dog!
4 Tips for the “Dog Days of Summer”
Guest Writer: Rachel Tohill
This summer seems hotter than any I can remember in the recent past. The heat index has been hitting the danger zone by 10:00 AM here in North Carolina, and we are not feeling much relief until the sun goes down. With that in mind, I wanted to give you some tips about keeping your dog healthy and happy in this heat.
Paw pads on pavement… ouch!
When the first dog I ever owned was a puppy, I made a horrible “mom mistake”! We went for a walk in our neighborhood one hot summer day, and when we got home she rushed to her water bowl and stepped right in to it to cool off her burning feet! Here’s what I learned after that searing lesson:
- Asphalt temperatures can be almost double the air temperature. So, if it is 80 degrees outside, it’s possible for the sidewalks to reach a sizzling 140 degrees. At 131 degrees, an egg can fry in 5 minutes.
- A dog’s paw pads are essentially as tough as the soles of our feet. Try walking barefoot on the sidewalk before taking your dog out. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pup.
- If you can press your hand to the asphalt for 7 seconds or more without being uncomfortable, the sidewalk should be safe for your dog’s paws. However, it will get much hotter throughout the day so early morning or late evening walks are best.
- Try to walk in a location that has grass or dirt along the sidewalk so that your dog can step onto the cooler surfaces if necessary.
Puppy Pool and Popsicles
There is nothing more fun than a kiddy pool and a homemade freezer pop on a hot summer day! Most dogs love to splash in the pool and have a chance to cool off while enjoying the outdoors. You can find very affordable pools even at the pet supply store. Just fill the pool about half way and invite your dog in for a romp. After play time, make sure to drain the water.
My dogs love popsicles and ice cubes. In fact, a Frosty Paw (found in the popsicle section in the grocery store) is the one treat they get that calls for the “grab and go.” They grab it and skulk away to a private little corner of treat heaven. You can find lots of recipes online for homemade doggy freezer pops; just make sure not to include grapes, onions (including onion powder found in some baby food), chocolate, or other food ingredients that are toxic to dogs. One of our favorite recipes is listed below:
Peanut Butter Popsicles
1 cup peanut butter
1 banana, mashed
Water as needed
Mix ingredients together and spread into a Kong, cookie cutters or popsicle molds, or simply spoon “blobs” on to a cookie sheet. Put cookie sheet or toys/molds in to the freezer overnight. Serve the next day after your pool party!
The Dangers of Humidity
No one likes high temperatures coupled with high humidity. For our furry friends, humidity is even more dangerous than it is for us. Because dogs “sweat” through their paws and cool themselves by panting to release moisture from their lungs, high moisture levels in the air can prevent dogs from cooling down. If a dog can’t cool off in the “outdoor sauna” created by high humidity levels, his temperature can skyrocket and he can suffer from heatstroke. And, trying to “dry out” the air with a fan may work for humans but it not as effective for dogs because they expel most of their body heat through their paws.
If you think your dog is overheated and can’t cool down, get him to an air conditioned room, wrap him in a damp cool towel and make sure his body temperature stays below 104. Although heatstroke is fairly uncommon for dogs, some pooches with health conditions or limited air passageways can be more susceptible to heat stroke. If your dog appears lethargic, dizzy, or has a lack of appetite, contact your veterinarian.
Leave Your Dog at Home
If the outdoor temperature is above 65 degrees, it is too hot for your dog to be left in a car. Just don’t do it. Enough said.
Basically, be safe out there this summer. Manage the care of your dog as you would yourself or your kids: hydration, skin protection, and cool shelter are keys to your dog’s health and safety. Enjoy the dog days of summer and look forward to the crisp autumn September air!