Summer in the Georgia heat is rough for everyone, dogs included. While humans can easily voice their discomfort, dogs don’t have that ability, so it is up to owners to be cognizant of their animal’s health in the hotter months. We’ve compiled some signs to alert you that your dog might be suffering as well as some tips to combat the sun’s negative effects on pups.
It is important to know that dogs are susceptible to heat stroke, which is potentially fatal. Dogs don’t sweat like humans, so their primary method of controlling body temperature is through panting. Sometimes panting isn’t enough to sufficiently lower their temperature, leading to overheating and heat stroke.
Older dogs, overweight dogs and breeds prone to breathing problems, like our very own bulldogs, are more likely to overheat.
One of the quickest ways to overheat an animal is to leave it in a car in the summer. To avoid putting your dog in danger, you should never leave it in the car, even with the windows down.
Even in 70-degree weather, a car can heat to 104 degrees in just half an hour, according to Jan Null, an adjunct professor at San Francisco State University. In Georgia, summer temperatures are often in the 90s and can exceed 100 degrees, which means the interior of a car can quickly heat to 172 degrees. That kind of temperature can be fatal to humans, so dogs are especially at risk.
Even outside of a car, dogs can get too hot, which is why it is important that owners are able to recognize the symptoms of heat stroke. According to Pet MD, excessive pants and lethargy, as well as reddened gums and lack of coordination, are signs that your dog might be experiencing a heat stroke.
Make sure that if your dog is kept outside, there is adequate shade provided for it as well as drinking water.
Another danger facing dogs in summer is hot concrete and blacktop, which can severely burn their paws. It’s great for owners and dogs to spend time together and get exercise through a good walk, but doing so the wrong area can be extremely painful for a dog.
Much like in cars, the temperature of the ground can vastly exceed the temperature you feel just standing outside. At 77 degrees, asphalt can reach up to 125 degrees.
An easy way to avoid burning your dog’s paws is to stay away from roads and sidewalks altogether, instead keeping your pet on natural grass. In addition, try to walk dogs early in the morning or late in the evening, rather than at midday when it is hottest outside.
Another method is to employ the “seven-second rule,” which involves putting the back of one’s hand on the surface the dog will be walking on for seven seconds. If the temperature becomes painful before the seven seconds are up, the surface is too hot for a dog to walk on.
If it’s impossible to walk your dog in the grass, and the sidewalk doesn’t pass the seven-second rule, you can buy dog booties to walk your dog in. However, try to use these sparingly and do some research before you buy a pair, as they can disrupt a dog’s balance and irritate their skin.
Sometimes people are tempted to cut their hair in the summer to get relief from the heat, which is fine, but don’t assume that the same would be good for your dog. Fur actually helps cool animals, and without its protections, dogs are especially vulnerable to sunburn, according to doghealth.com.
Even with fur, your dog might need sunscreen, said Benjamin Brainard, a professor at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. The areas of their bodies with the least amount of fur—the stomach, ears, and nose—are the most likely to get sunburned.
Additionally, make sure to find sunscreen specially formulated for dogs, as ingredients like zinc in human sunscreens can be toxic to dogs. If your dog’s skin is too sensitive for sunscreen, there is protective clothing you can buy instead.
The warmer months can be a dangerous time for our lovable furry companions, but as long as you keep your dog cool and hydrated, the both of you can have a fun summer together.