Summer is an awesome season for dogs in NYC, because our human parents are active outdoors. As much as I love the outdoors, I am always hot because I’m a huge dog with a heavy undercoat. Summer can be a dangerous season for heavily undercoated dogs, short nosed breeds, overweight or elderly dogs, or dogs with medical conditions such as laryngeal paralysis. Highly driven working dogs such as retrievers, shepherds and spaniels should also be closely monitored during play and exercise in the summer.
A good rule of thumb is: If you are hot, we are much hotter. And I’m not bragging about how sexy we canines are. We are only able to regulate our temperatures through panting. We have some sweat glands on our paws, but its heat dissipation mechanism is minimal. Here are a few tips to keep your dog safe in the concrete jungle during the summer months:
Our paws can be burned from prolonged exposure to walking on hot concrete or asphalt. Walk us on shady areas. Keep our walks short during the hottest time of the day and exercise us after sun down. Be particularly cautious with puppies or dogs that do not walk outside often. In time, a puppy’s paw pads hardens through callusing by walking on various surfaces which protects their paws. Young dogs are susceptible to burns while their paw pads are yet to harden.
Never leave us in the car unless you’re with us and the air conditioner is on. The temperature in a parked car rises quickly. If the external temperature is 75 degrees, within minutes, it rises to 100 degrees. By keeping the dog enclosed in a parked car, the dog is literally getting cooked. Not cool (pun intended).
Thinly coated dogs are susceptible to sunburns. Apply sunscreen that are made for dogs, or outfit us in thin T-shirts to create a barrier to the sun if we’re going for a long swim.
We regulate our heat through panting. Which means we are losing moisture by the way we ventilate. Provide access to plenty of fresh water. We love ice cubes or frozen broth!
Mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks and fleas are rampant during the summer months. Protect us with preventative applications such as collars, sprays, dips and drops.
Swimming keeps us cool and it’s great exercise! But prevent us from drinking excess amounts of chlorinated water in the pool or salt water in the ocean. It will upset our stomachs. Don’t let us drink standing water because it’s filled with bacteria and parasites. Keep us away from green ponds. Algae that blooms in the summer months are toxic to dogs.
While heavy coats protect us in the winter, dogs in urban settings have it tough due to radiant heat that remains on concrete and asphalt. A densely coated dog greatly benefits from buzz cut and crew cut styles in the hot, humid months. A shorter cut not only keeps us cool, but it prevents pesky plant seeds such as foxtails and disease carrying ticks from hiding under our dense fur. Plus it’s easier to keep us clean and free of mats!
Signs of heatstroke are lethargy, drooling, excess panting. At the first sign, cool us off by running cool (not cold) water first over our underside, neck and back of the head. Slowly cover the whole body. Keep our heads elevated to prevent aspiration pneumonia. This can be done in the tub, the sink (depending on size) or with a garden hose. Apply a cold pack on our head to lower our temperature. Massage our legs to increase circulation and reduce shock. Allow us to drink as much water as we need. Add a small pinch of salt in the water to replace the minerals we have lost through panting. Check our temperature– it needs to be below 103 degrees (39.4 Celsius), then go to the vet!
– Masa the Saint Bernard