The Dog Days of Summer

June 18, 2019

Summer is the season for fun in the sun! Make sure that your pup is having fun, too, by following these summer safety tips:

  • Hotter? More water. As temperatures rise and we find ourselves being more active throughout the day, it can be easy to wind up dehydrated. The same goes for our pets, but they can’t tell us when they’re thirsty! Always make sure that your dog has access to clean, cool water. Keep a jug in your car for emergencies and make sure you pack along a water bottle and collapsible bowl for your pup when hiking. Be on the lookout for signs of dehydration: dry nose and tacky (sticky) gums, lethargy, panting, and sunken-looking eyes. If you see this, get your dog some water ASAP and make your way to the vet!
  • Save the shave. Contrary to popular belief, shaving your dog in the summer will actually make it more prone to overheating. This is because a dog’s coat is naturally designed to help regulate body temperature, keeping your dog warm in the winter and cool in the summer by capturing air and holding it close to the skin as insulation. In hot months, the layer of fur also block direct sunlight from the skin. Continue with regular grooming, but resist the buzz cut!
  • Keep it cool. If you’re hot, your dog is probably hot, too. Dogs can’t sweat to cool down – they rely on panting to regulate their body temperature. Brachycephalic, or short-faced, dogs (bulldogs, pugs, boxers, etc.) have a harder time cooling down because of their respiratory anatomy, which puts them at a greater risk of heat stroke. But heat stroke can happen in any breed! Signs include heavy panting, bright red gums, a dark tongue, thick drool, vomiting, diarrhea, and wobbly legs or uncoordinated movement. This is a very serious condition that can quickly turn fatal. If you think your dog may be suffering from heat stroke, immediately move it to a cool place, cover it with a wet towel (particularly belly, and provide water. Don’t submerge the dog in cold water, as this can cause shock. Head to a vet right away!
  • Ground rules. A dog’s paws are tough, but not invincible. Walking on lava-hot pavement isn’t just painful, it can also keep your dog from being able to properly cool off (dogs use their paws to help regulate body temperature in addition to panting). A quick rule of thumb: if you can’t comfortably hold the back of your hand on the ground for at least five seconds, it’s too hot to walk your dog.
  • Sunblock ≠ funblock. Humans aren’t the only ones who can get burned by too much time in the sun. Though most dogs are protected by their coat of fur, bare or thin areas like the belly, nose, and ears are still susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. Apply a pet-safe sunscreen before sun exposure and every few hours, or after swimming, and always provide shade. Your pup will thank you!
  • Don’t fear the Fourth. The 4th of July is arguably one of summer’s best days, but your dog might not agree. Between the parades, loud music, and the dreaded fireworks, it can be one of the most stressful and frightening days for your dog. Know their limits and keep them comfortable. Keep your dog on a leash at all times when outside in case of surprise firecrackers from the neighbor’s yard. If you’re leaving to watch the fireworks display elsewhere, set your pup in a comfortable, quiet room of the house. Consider a fan or white noise machine, anxiety shirt or “thunder vest,” or even discuss the idea of a mild sedative with your vet.
  • Never. Ever. Leave your dog in a hot car. This one should go without saying, and yet it still happens too often. Though it might not get nearly as hot in northwest Washington as it does in, say, southern California, the temperature inside a parked car can still rise nearly 20 degrees in only ten minutes, and cracking the windows has nearly zero cooling effect. If you’re not convinced, take a look at the table below, based on a study done by the University of San Francisco. And then promise us that you won’t leave your dog in a hot car, even if it’s just for a “quick errand.”
Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time
Elapsed time Outside Air Temperature (F)
70 75 80 85 90 95
0 minutes 70 75 80 85 90 95
10 minutes 89 94 99 104 109 114
20 minutes 99 104 109 114 119 124
30 minutes 104 109 114 119 124 129
40 minutes 108 113 118 123 128 133
50 minutes 111 116 121 126 131 136
60 minutes 113 118 123 128 133 138
> 1 hour 115 120 125 130 135 140

Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University