The heat is brutal this time of year, and with a double coated dog myself we have had to learn tips and tricks needed to survive outdoors.
Firstly, learning to recognize heat and body temperature indicators is paramount. Signs of overheating are excessive panting, rapid heart rate, and fatigue. Each dog is different but there are some common cues to look for to avoid heat stroke and over exposure to the elements.
- Monitoring the length of your dog's tongue. How far is it hanging out of their mouth? This can help when determining excessive panting. The longer your dog's tongue hangs out of their mouth, the more surface area they are exposing to try and cool themselves off.
- Paying attention to your dog's breath rate. Are they breathing very fast and is it labored breathing? The respiratory system is directly related to heart rate, so the faster they breathe the higher the heart rate.
- Gauging their energy level can be difficult (especially with a young pup) but knowing your dog's "normal" energy level is a good starting point. Are they tiring, slowing pace, laying down? Those are signs of fatigue.
- Dehydration is real folks. Testing your pup's skin by gently pulling the skin up on their back close to the tail (or between their shoulder blades, NOT the neck) is a good way to check for dehydration. If it does not return to normal, that is an indicator they are dehydrated. As are sunken eyes, dry nose and gums, refusing to eat, and lethargy.
Next lets talk about water. Just because your dog has access to water does not mean they will stay hydrated. We use water during the hotter months in several ways.
- Choosing Activities close to water or providing an kid swimming pool with ice is a great way to get out energy. Hikes close to the area with water we like are Jones Gap- rainbow falls trail (45 min), Devils Fork- Bear cove trail (1 hr 15 min), and the Mountain lake area in Paris Mountain following sulfur springs trial (10-20 min).
- Bring water for your dog at all times, even when you are out on the boat and your dog is stuck on deck. Bring a bottle of water for your dog and one for yourself.
- Use water to wet a cooling coat like the one we tested in White Sands New Mexico with our pup. A good quality cooling coat should reflect sunlight (a must for dark colored coats), cover a large surface area to provide evaporative cooling (including chest area), and your dogs coat should feel cool to the touch underneath the coat. We use this one by Kurgo and love it. We used it in the desert and were amazed at how long Tulip could go without being overheated. Any time you pass water on your hikes re wet the coat.
- Wet cloth or wet boots to help cool off your pup's paws.
Now to talk about some serious temperature mistakes. Dogs are subject to heat strokes, burned paw pads, and sunburn. If we take them outside for fun, it is our job to make sure they stay safe and are not burned or baked!
Below are some things to watch out for-
- Hot cars- It is not safe to leave your dog in the car for any amount of time, I repeat NOT safe! A 78 degree day can turn your car into a 100 degree oven in minutes. A quick trip into Starbucks with your pup in the car can be lethal.
- Sizzling pavement- That same 78 degree day means the asphalt your dog has to walk on is 125 degrees. A dog's paws will blister and burn at those temperatures. A safe way to walk your dog in the heat is with boots. I recommend these Mud Monsters, give them a soak to help keep your pup cool on walks.
- Mid day heat- It is a killer, and taking walks and exercising is best in the morning before the heat peaks. Evening walks are also a good choice, but sometimes the humidity is too oppressive.
- Beach days- It is best to take them out in the early morning or late evening. If you do take your dog to the beach for the day there are some ways to help prevent your pup from overheating. Keep them off the hot sand that can burn their paws, use a cooling coat/ let them swim often, provide constant water, and a tent or cover for shade. Dogs should not be left in the sun!
- Sunburn- Protect your dog from sunburn using a product like Snout Soother that is nontoxic and try to keep them out of direct sun if you can.