The scorching heat of El Niño is now felt by everyone, even our fur babies! Unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat, so they have a lot of trouble keeping cool during the hot months. Their sweat glands are not found on their skin, but on their noses and the pads of their paws.
We know the basics, such as providing clean fresh water all the time and keeping them in the shade. But that isn’t always enough. Here are some tactics to keep your pets cool on warm, humid days:
TIPS FOR ALL DOG-OWNERS
Put ice cubes in their water bowls.
Have fun watching your dogs throw and catch them in the air and then dip their faces in the water to get some more. Just make sure to do this at least two hours after they have eaten their meal so as to prevent bloat. If your dogs have just been exposed to the sun or if they’ve just come from their exercise/playtime, wait a few minutes before giving them ice cubes.
Make homemade frozen treats!
Simply put chunks of cheese or your choice of apple, bananas, peanut butter, or even some liver into an ice tray. Pour some water and then freeze. Be creative! Any of your pet’s favorite foods will do. You can also buy some chunky canned dog food, dilute it with water, and then pour it on an ice tray to freeze. Oh how they love it!
Walk or exercise your dog only during the cool hours.
The ideal time to take your dog on its daily walks would be early morning, late afternoon, or in the evening. The latter may be better for black and dark-colored dogs, who absorb the sun’s rays and heat up faster than lighter-colored dogs. Make sure that asphalt roads are not too hot—these can burn their paws.
Tie a wet or chilled bandana around your dog’s neck.
Want to stand out as you take your dog for a stroll? Soak a bandanna in water or put it in the freezer for some extra chill before you tie it on your dog’s neck. Your pet will look ultra stylish, and the bandanna will help keep its body cool.
Let them sleep with an electric-fan-and-cooling-pad combo.
On those extremely hot days, your dogs may love a combo of their own personal electric fan and a cooling pad. Lightly spray a clean mat, towel, or dog bed with water before they lie down. Make sure that it’s not dripping wet, just slightly moist. Your dogs will appreciate the chill on their belly as the fan blows the heat away. They’ll definitely sleep like babies!
Regularly check your pet for signs of dehydration.
Like people, dogs run a risk of getting dehydrated during the summer months. Here are two ways to check for dehydration:
- Pinch and pull the skin on the top of its neck and then let it go. The skin of a healthy, hydrated dog will flatten out immediately. For dehydrated dogs, the skin will be less elastic, and it will take as long as several seconds to return to normal. If your dog is obese, then the pinch test may not really work.
- Check your dog’s gums. These should normally be smooth and wet to the touch. If the gums are dry and sticky, this indicates dehydration and a lack of fluids in the body.
Be on the lookout for symptoms of heat stroke.
Here are some signs that your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion:
- Rapid breathing
- Heavy panting
- Excessive salivation
- Hyperventilation (gasping for air)
- Having a dazed look
- Weakness and inability to get up
- Moving very slowly while being disoriented
- Loss of consciousness
If your dog displays the symptoms listed above, immediately take it to a shady ventilated area or an air-conditioned room. Apply cool wet towels to its belly where skin is exposed, as well as to the inner thighs, footpads, and groin area. Do not use ice to cool a heat stroke victim as this can cause a decrease or loss of skin circulation and thus delays cooling. You may use a water hose, but do it gradually. Never cover your pet with a wet blanket because the body heat needs to evaporate.
Cooling your pet is the first priority. Hydration is next. Offer cool water to drink (not iced) but do not force it into its mouth. Heatstroke can be fatal so immediately take your pet to the vet. Act fast! Those few minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
Practice good dog grooming.
Grooming your dog’s fur is always important, and never more so during the hot summer months. Here are some pro-cooling tricks you can use while keeping your dogs’ coats clean and pretty:
Give your dog a bath, and it will instantly cool them down. Turn bath time into playtime! Throw a ball and spray them with a hose as your dog chases it. Make bath time fun by bringing out a tub of water to serve as your dog’s own mini swimming pool.
Keep your pets’ coats matt free. Those tangled hairs are not only unsightly, but they also trap dirt and moisture and make it uncomfortable for your dogs to move. Use a comb and slicker brush. For dogs and cats, a FURminator tool works wonders when taking out the loose and dead hairs that trap heat in their bodies.
Do not shave your pet’s hair completely. The fur protects them from getting sunburned.
Here’s a sneaky trick: if you want to keep your pet’s coat long, just trim the middle part of the belly area while keeping the sides of its body untouched. This way, your dog still gets to keep its long beautiful hair. No one will ever know that it’s trimmed short inside the skirt.
FOR OWNERS OF OLDER OR OVERWEIGHT DOGS
Be attentive to older and overweight dogs during hot and humid days. Make them eat less. Overeating can lead to overheating.
SNUB DOGS ALERT!
Be extra careful if you have snub nose pets like Pugs, Boston Terriers, Shih-Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, Bulldogs, Boxers, and Pekingese. Don’t make them take long walks or exert too much exercise and play time. These breeds have difficulty maintaining a normal body temperature in hot weather.
FOR DOG OWNERS TRAVELING WITH THEIR FURRED FRIENDS
Never leave your pets inside a closed car. On a hot sunny day, the temperature could soar, even within a few minutes. You certainly don’t want to bake your pets in a car oven.
Don’t put your dog in the back of a pickup truck. Not only is this dangerous, but the heat of the sun and the hot metal may burn your dog’s paws.
For long trips, reduce the quantity of food your dog consumes a few hours before traveling to prevent your dogs from getting motion sickness and their bodies from overheating.
Always carry a water bottle or a small bowl, and make sure your dog sips water at least every 2 hours.
Limit swimming time and sun exposure for your short-haired pets. Those with pink skin and white hair are especially sensitive. Yes, dogs do get sunburned!
When at the beach, feel the sand to test its temperature. If it’s too hot for you to walk on it barefoot, then it might hurt your pet’s paws as well.
Don’t expose your puppies to the outdoors until their vaccinations are complete. They are very susceptible to diseases, and their immune systems may be compromised.
Summer is the time that you and your pet can enjoy the sunshine and outdoors. Follow the tips above for prevention is the key to safety. Love and protect your fur babies and make sure to have fun!
(Photos by Gina Pestaño-Castro)