Summer is traditionally a time to get out in the sunshine with your dog, but in a pandemic summer, it’s essential! While many of us are keeping to our social bubbles, being outdoors with your loyal canine companion is a safe way to pass the time.
But that heat and humidity can be as dangerous for dogs as it is for humans. From the smallest of puppies to your senior canine, here are some summer myths and facts for keeping your dog safe in the heat of the summer.
MYTH: Dogs don’t sweat, and their panting keeps them cool.
FACT: Dogs do sweat through their paws and noses, but not through their skin. Panting does help dogs cool down; the panting circulates the cooler air from outside with the hotter air inside their bodies. But if the outside air is too hot, panting becomes excessive, and that’s a sign of possible heatstroke. Other signs: lethargy, glazed eyes, excessive drooling, and lack of coordination.
BOTTOME LINE: Limit outdoor time for your dog when it’s hot, keep her well-hydrated, and don’t leave her unattended.
MYTH: It’s okay to leave my dog in the car for just a few minutes, especially if the air conditioning is running.
FACT: The temperature in a car shoots up within minutes, and a cracked window doesn’t help. And the A/C isn’t infallible – what if it fails, or your dog inadvertently turns it off? Even on a mild day, temps inside a car can kill a dog in the time it takes you to pick up milk and eggs.
BOTTOM LINE: Leave your dog home while you run errands, and NEVER leave him in a car unattended.
MYTH: My dog’s paws protect her from the hot pavement.
FACT: Surfaces can be 40-60 degrees hotter than the air temperature, and dogs’ paws can definitely burn. There are lots of infographics that break it down, but it boils (pun intended) down to this: Place the back of your hand on the pavement or asphalt, and if you can’t keep it there for seven seconds, it’s too hot for your dog.
And don’t forget your decking! My composite deck gets so hot that I can’t stand on it barefoot. After a few summers of placing beach towels from the sliding door to the steps off the deck, I upgraded to outdoor rug runners, making a chic runway that keeps my dog’s paws burn-free.
BOTTOM LINE: Walk your dog early in the morning or after the sun goes down, or keep him on the grass if you must walk mid-day.
MYTH: Shaving my dog’s fur keeps her cooler in the heat.
FACT: While a long-haired dog can get a summer cut from a groomer, a dog’s coat provides insulation from both the cold and heat. Leaving her without a protective layer makes her susceptible to sunburn as well.
BOTTOM LINE: Consult your vet before grooming, and consider sunscreen, particularly for hairless dogs, and dogs with white or thin coats. Some ingredients in human sunscreen are toxic to dogs, so make sure you choose canine-safe protection.
For more information about keeping your pooch safe in the heat of summer, check out this blog post from last year. And stay cool!