Summer is a great time to be outside with your pup. But, before you rush out with your pup for all your summer plans, make sure you know how to keep them safe! One of the biggest dangers for your pup is a heat stroke from the high temperatures, which can be fatal if untreated. As a pet parent, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a heat stroke, how to avoid it, and other things to watch out for this summer. This is especially important if you have a dog with a flat face, like a pug, as they are more susceptible to heat stroke because they can’t pant effectively when they are trying to cool off.

Do dogs sweat?

Yes, dogs sweat, but it’s only a small part of how they cool down. Their most effective method of cooling down is panting. Unlike humans, dogs sweat mainly through the glands in their paws pads, which is how they leave paw prints on the ground on hot days. They don’t have any sweat glands on their bodies that help them cool off, because the sweat would not be able to evaporate with the fur on their bodies. They do technically have a different type of sweat gland on their bodies, referred to as apocrine glands, that give off pheromones. These glands don’t help them cool off, and instead give your dog a unique scent that other dogs use to identity them.

Should I shave my dog in the summer?

While you might be tempted to shave your dog in the summer, keeping your dog’s coat long in the summer has many benefits (a small trim is fine).For starters, the fur helps to protect your dog from the sunburn, and from fleas and ticks that thrive in the summer. It also protects them from heartworm, which is transmitted through mosquitoes. Additionally, your dog’s coat acts as an insulator and actually helps to keep your dog cooler in hot weather. This is one of the main reasons a double-coated breed, such as an Australian Shepherd or Golden Retriever, should never be shaved. They shed their inner coat regularly, which is their insulating coat. By shaving it, you’re actually leaving them susceptible to heat stroke as they won’t be able to keep cool. 

How hot is too hot?

The normal body temperature for a dog ranges from 101 – 102.5. Anything higher than 103.5 is considered hyperthermia and may indicate heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

As a rule of thumb, temperatures higher than 90F is too hot for your dog. Heat tolerance varies by dog so you want to use the 5 second rule. If you think it might be too hot, place the back of your hand on the sidewalk for 5 seconds. If it's too hot for you, then it's too hot for your dog.

Signs of heat stroke

If you suspect your dog had a heat stroke, contact your vet immediately or go to an emergency vet clinic. Signs include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.

What should I do on a hot day with my dog?

  • Ice cubes: Dogs love ice cubes! Add ice cubes to their water to keep it extra cool for them.
  • Water mist: Keep a spray bottle with water to use as a mist.
  • Stay inside: If it's really hot outside, it's best to stay inside in the middle of the day.
  • Paddling pool: Consider giving them access to a paddling pool for them to lay in to cool off.
  • Cooling bed: Consider a cooling mat pad (can be used inside or outside) to keep them cool during hot days.
  • Use two water bowls: If one gets knocked over, they'll have a spare to use.
  • Use fans if you don't have AC: This keeps air circulating in your home and will keep them cool.
  • Hose or towel: If they are panting heavily, keep wetting them with a hose (belly first) or with a moist towel.

Summer guidelines

  1. Keep their coat long and never shave your dog: You might be tempted to give your dog a summer cut to help them keep cool in the higher temperatures, but keeping their coat long has benefits for the summer. While a short trim is fine, shaving your dog can result in sunburn and bug bites. Instead of a short cut, brush them more often to remove excess fur.
  2. Don’t leave your dog in the car: When it gets really hot outside, it’s best to leave your dog at home. The inside of your car can reach 20 degrees higher than the temperature outside in just a few minutes. A cracked window or leaving your car in the shade doesn’t offer enough protection from the heat. 
  3. Don’t skip your heartworm preventatives: Heartworm is transmitted through mosquitoes, and mosquitos thrive in warmer temperatures so you want to make sure your pup is protected. 
  4. Avoid hot pavement: As a rule of thumb, if you can’t stand barefoot on the pavement yourself, then it’s too hot. Consider getting booties or changing the time of day you take your dog out. 
  5. Keep an eye around water: Don’t assume your dog can swim. Introduce your pup to water gradually and use a flotation device. If your dog is inside the water, always stay with them and keep a close eye. Dogs can get tired of swimming and need help getting out.  
  6. Lawn pesticides: Keep your dog away from lawn pesticides. While lawns that have been treated with pesticides that are not dog-friendly should be clearly marked as such, it’s best to assume any newly treated lawn is not dog friendly.
  7. Apply sunscreen: Use sunscreen if your dog will be in the sun for extended periods of time. Read our guide on sun exposure here.
  8. Consider changing your walking hours: If you’re used to going on midday walks, consider changing your schedule to go earlier in the morning or early evening to take advantage of the cooler temperatures and less sunlight. 
  9. Cool your dog off with a towel: To cool off your dog, you can spray them with water or use a wet towel. They cool off faster when you cool down their paws and stomach, rather than their top coat or faces. 

We love this infographic from Murdoch University on heat stroke in dogs. It's easy to reference during the summer!

Credit: Harlingen Veterinary Clinic