Summer is well and truly here, my Australian pals. Long days at brutal temperatures are set to leave us sweaty and lethargic for months to come. Are you ready? Is your air conditioner ready? As the 2020 State of the Climate report indicated, extreme weather and high temperatures are not going anywhere for Australia (unless we make some crucial changes) so we’d better prepare for some uncomfortable weather ahead.
With the warmer months upon us, and folks heading back to the office in many areas, one of the biggest concerns plaguing families is the impact the summer heat will have on their pet dog.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can wreak utter havoc on your canine friend, but there are a few things you can do to keep your dog cool and safe this summer.
I spoke on the phone with Dr. Darrell Phillips of Jackson, Mississippi’s Animal Emergency and Referral centre who, full disclosure, is my father – and he was nice enough to share some heat-beating tips.
As with any medical emergency, prevention is a better tool than treatment. Dogs are simply not as well-equipped as humans to deal with sweltering summer temperatures, and taking them out on your midday run can lead to disaster.
“Just because you can jog in the heat doesn’t mean your dog can,” Dr. Phillips explained, “he’s got a fur coat on, and he can’t sweat like you can. The only way [your dog] can cool down is through panting and there’s a limited window there.”
This can particularly be an issue with larger breeds, who take longer to cool down.
“Keep in mind that your dog starts out with a higher temperature than you, so they have a shorter way to go until they overheat.
“If you’re starting to get hot, the dog is hotter.”
Walking your dog either at dusk or dawn (or as close to that as possible) can help limit their exposure to the summer sun, which will keep them cooler and, in the case of lighter coloured dogs, prevent sunburn. Always keep plenty of water available to your pets – Dr. Phillips recommends ice water if it’s really hot out – and if they have to be outside, make sure they have shade to retreat to.
You can also get your pup a cooling mat; if you need one quicker than Amazon can get it to you, lay a cool, damp towel on top of a trash bag or other piece of plastic.
If you’re planning to take your pup out at all in the summer sun, you need to stay vigilant for the signs of heat distress. “Heavy panting, looking anxious, salivating, and changes in gum colour can all indicate heat exhaustion or stroke,” Dr. Phillips explained, adding “once they hit 104℉, you need to do something.”
Getting your pet to the vet is important, but cooling them down as quickly as possible is even more important.
“Wipe the bottom of their paws with a cool wet cloth – wet with water, not rubbing alcohol, which can dry out the pads – or dip their feet into water if you can, and pour cool water on the neck, being sure you quit cooling once they reach 40C,” then get them to the vet as soon as you can.
This story was originally published in December 2018 and was updated November 2020.