Keep your pet cool this summer
It's June, and the thermometer is slowly beginning to rise. You are out hiking and playing with your best
friend who always wears an impractical black fur coat. What can you do to keep her cool?
Dogs don’t sweat, instead they rely on panting and resting in a cool place to keep cool in the heat or
thermoregulate. Wild canines typically find a shady tree or bush to dig a hole under and wait out the
heat of the day. Walking at the end of a leash on a street, their options are limited. Here are 10 simple
but important things you can do to keep your pet cool.
1. NEVER leave a dog in a vehicle on a warm day. You may think it’s never hot enough in Maine to have
to worry about this but the sun can heat a car to more than 110 degrees on a 75 degree day in a very
short period of time even with the windows rolled down.
2. All dogs are at high risk for heat exhaustion, some even more so than others. These include
brachycephalic dogs (like pugs and bulldogs), overweight dogs, puppies, thick-furred black dogs, etc.
They may not show that they are overheated until it is too late. Avoid midday activities and limit their
time and exercise in the hot sun and heat.
3. Hydrate before leaving the house and bring plenty of cold water. Offer an animal plenty of water
before, during and after any heat exposure. A dog will drink more water if you make it delicious. Stir in a
little low-sodium chicken broth, a spoonful of meat baby food or canned food and they may drink more
water. There is a caveat to water drinking -- don't let them drink too much at once or they may vomit
4. Don’t feed your pet within an hour of exercise, no matter what the weather is. This will reduce the
risk of bloat or other gastrointestinal issues.
5. Older dogs with a condition called laryngeal paralysis are more at risk for overheating and even
life-threatening collapse. These dogs often have louder breathing with a raspy sound on inhaling and
exhaling. Dogs rely on panting to cool themselves and the air passing through a wide open larynx can
cool a dog down quickly. With laryngeal paralysis, a dog's larynx cannot fully open, and the ability to
thermoregulate or cool down is greatly restricted. It is essential keep these dogs out of hot weather.
6. Black or dark-colored dogs can become overheated quickly, as they absorb more of the sun's rays
than a light colored dog. Consider pet sunscreen for white or pale dogs or dogs with no fur protection if
they have to be in the sun for extended periods of time. Dogs can get sunburns too!
7. Do not walk dogs on hot blacktop or pavement. Dogs often do not show signs of pain from burnt feet
until it is too late. Cool the feet with cold water and consult a veterinarian.
8. Use common sense and assess the weather before you bring an at-risk dog out in the heat. Even with
shade, plenty of water, wading areas and some cool dirt a hot day can still be too much for many pets.
9. Signs of overheating may go unnoticed or ignored in pets. Dogs may not stop running or playing if
they are too hot. Many will do what you tell them to do, even to the point of heat exhaustion. Look for
the following signs of overheating before they become serious health risks:
•Dark pink to red tongue
•Dry, tacky mouth and gums
•Trying to lie down
•Lifting feet to avoid hot pavement
•Slowing down and dragging on the leash
10. If a pet is overheated, sponge or pour cool water on his abdomen, feet, armpits and groin, as well as offering the water to drink. Do not use alcohol to cool the skin or feet. This method can cause toxicity through absorption of the alcohol through the dilated capillaries of the hot skin. Any dog that collapses or shows signs of severe overheating should be taken immediately to a veterinarian. Intravenous or subcutaneous fluids and other medical treatments could be life-saving.
Your pets depend upon you to make good judgments about their hot weather activities. Be safe and enjoy our Maine summer!