Dear Jeni: It's our first summer with our new dog, any advice?

With the dog days of summer upon us, it’s important to remember your four-legged friends and provide them every opportunity to beat the heat. When was the last time you wore a winter jacket to a cookout or to the beach? While you may have packed your wool and fleece away until fall, your dog isn’t quite as lucky. Every time your pooch leaves the air conditioned oasis of your home they begin to heat up! Here are some helpful summer tips to identify when your pup is over-heating and what you can do to prevent it.    

It’s important to know everything you can about your dog’s breed, and if they are more at risk for dehydration or heat stroke. In general, short haired dogs with long noses such as Hounds and Dalmatians do better at regulating their body temperature while long haired, giant and snub-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds all need some extra help keeping cool. Other at-risk dogs may include those that are overweight, young, old, or those with medical needs. When in doubt, always ask your veterinarian for advice specific to your breed.    

Whether you own a dog or not, it’s important to be able to quickly identify signs of heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration to protect our loyal companions from harm. Unlike people, dogs don’t sweat to regulate body temperature, instead they pant. When panting isn’t enough, here are the signs to look for:    

  • Excessive panting or drooling
  • Sunken eyes that appear glassy
  • Loud or labored breathing
  • Dry, dark or pale gums
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Disoriented or difficulty walking
  • Body temperature above 105° F
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Diarrhea

If you see any of these signs and believe heat may be the cause, it’s important to cool your dog immediately using a wet towel before driving straight to the vet. In severe cases, contact your vet while you are en route to ensure they are ready to act fast.    

As we know, prevention is the best medicine, and knowing how to keep your pup out of heat-related dangers is important, and in some cases – FUN! Keeping cool starts with providing plenty of cold drinking water and shade. Frozen treats such as doggy ice cream, frozen yogurt or no-salt-added beef/chicken broth cubes are great on especially hot days. When taking trips, never ever leave your dog in a car, not even for a minute. When going for a walk or out to play, avoid the mid-day sun when the pavement and air temperature are highest. Grooming may also be beneficial to some breeds with thick matted hair, but consult with a dog groomer before going in for a close shave as your pup’s coat may also provide cooling and protection from sun burn. For a day of fun in the sun, consider breaking out the hose and filling a shallow wading pool for a cool place for supervised play!    

No matter how you decide to keep cool this summer, keep an eye out for dogs in need and have fun beating the heat!