People have efficient ways to keep cool during the hot summer months…if they don’t have air conditioners, they simply sweat, but dog’s don’t have the luxury of turning air conditioning on, and they don’t have sweat glands on their bodies like we do.  They may perspire a bit through the pads on their paws, but basically they rely on panting to regulate their body heat. If a dog is confined to a hot, humid environment or has been exercising too strenuously under the scorching sun, heat exhaustion can pose serious health problems, and if the condition progresses to heatstroke, nervous system abnormalities may include lethargy, weakness, collapse, or coma, and the dog needs immediate treatment or it may be fatal.

On hot, humid days, your dog is better off spending most of his time indoors in a temperature-controlled environment. Limit her outdoor exercise to early morning when the temperatures and humidity are at their lowest level, and watch her tongue. If you see the end of her tongue widening, that is a signal that she needs to rest and cool down. Other signs of heat exhaustion are loud, rapid breathing, and excess salivation. If not immediately moved to a cool area, she will begin to show signs of heatstroke, including rapid heartbeat, agitation, staggering, vomiting, white or bluish gums, and eventual collapse. (Only one or two of these symptoms has to be present to indicate that she may be in trouble.)

A few tips to help keep your dog from getting overheated all summer long:

  • Dogs can dehydrate very quickly, so make sure yours has plenty of fresh, clean water available at all times. If he has to be outside for any length of time, he should have access to complete shade.
  • A shorter summer hair-do is great, but leave it at least an inch long, because his fur helps protect him from the sun. Don’t shave your dog too close!
  • Don’t overdo exercise or play sessions, regardless of the time of the day. Over exertion in hot weather—even after dark—can bring on heat-related health problems. Exercise during the coolest parts of the day, stay in the shade if possible, and if it’s 90 degrees or more, stay inside, and increase indoor activities.
  • Keep your dog off hot asphalt or concrete. It can burn his paws and the heat rising from the hot surface can quickly overheat your low-to-the-ground friend.

Leaving pets unattended in a vehicle is not wise in any weather, but many states now consider it a criminal offense to leave them in extreme heat or cold. Most communities have rescue provisions which allow police officers or store employees to do whatever is necessary to rescue an animal trapped in a vehicle in dangerous temperatures. No matter where you live, if you see a pet confined in an unattended vehicle, alert the store management and CALL LAW ENFORCEMENT. Even with the windows open, the temperature in a car can rise to deadly levels within MINUTES.

Unfortunately too many dogs succumb to heat stroke when it could have been avoided with a little preparation and forethought. Know your dog…some have a higher sensitivity to heat and a lesser ability to evacuate heat once they have been exposed to high temperatures. Recognize what level of activity is appropriate under different conditions for your dog, and know when to say when. The best treatment for heatstroke is prevention. Learn the signs of heatstroke, and take the necessary steps to prevent it, to ensure your dog will beat the heat this summer!