Like I mentioned yesterday, it is crazy hot and humid right now in my area. Yesterday was 96°F with a heat index of 107°F (so what it feels like outside) and today looks to be about the same. At the time of writing this (which I admit is after midnight), it is still 83° outside according to my thermometer and crazy humid. I got up this morning and by 9:30am it was already in the upper 80’s outside (we get full sun most of the day). Needless to say I have not been doing much with the dogs outside the last few days. As such, I am absolutely paying the price and the dogs are starting to go stir crazy. They have been playing some indoor games and what not but the days without intense exercise are starting to catch up and the dogs are going bonkers.
Although what I’d really like to do is take the dogs out and run them for a while, the weather really doesn’t allow for that for safety reasons. Like humans dogs can absolutely suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke so we need to be very cautious in these temperatures. That being said, there are definitely ways to help exercise and keep our dogs happy.
Once the temperature rises it is completely unsafe and unacceptable to leave dogs in cars. Dogs (and kids) die every year after being left in hot cars–even if just for a short stop. The temperature in a car can rise rapidly even with the windows down significantly for ventilation (but windows down can be risky in its own right). I love to take my dogs everywhere with me but in the summer they stay home because it’s not worth the risk. My short 2 minute trip into the post office can easily turn into a 20 minute trip if the line is long or grandma over there has 3 dozen packages to send international and the other postal worker took a lunch break.
IF your dog is an outside dog, consider bringing them into a mud-room or basement to avoid this type of heat. If bringing the dog isn’t an option, you need to provide ample amount of shade–a dog house, area under a deck/porch, or access to an open building/shelter. You need to provide plenty of water, and if available running water. Water in buckets and bowls can heat up rapidly and doesn’t provide much relief to the dog. What I mean by plenty of water, is either a minimum of a 5 gallon bucket full of water or a “bottomless bowl” that keeps the bowl full of fresh cold water. Dehydration is just as dangerous as heat stroke. If you have one available, providing a small pool for dogs to cool off in can be really beneficial. Dogs do not sweat like we dog–their only sweat glands are on their paws–they rely on panting to cool themselves off and while it’s efficient under normal conditions, it’s not as efficient under extreme conditions. Providing a pool where a dog can get his/her paws wet helps dogs cool off significantly and if a dog is willing to lay down in the pool it can help even further by cooling them as the water evaporates from their fur (mimicking how sweat cools).
It’s really important to be aware of the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Heat stroke can occur simply because of excessive heat and inadequate water/shelter/cooling station, heat exhaustion is caused by exercising in the heat. Their symptoms are different but similar.
Common symptoms of Heat Stroke:
- Rapid or excessive panting–or the sudden stop of panting
- Erratic heartbeat/pulse
- Very red gums
- Thicker than normal drool or saliva
- Increase in anxiety
- Raised body temperature–cell damage can start around 106°F
Heat Exhaustion–occurs during exercise or strenuous activity:
- Abnormal heart beat
- Weakness in muscles (may see them weaving or walking unsteadily)
- Breathing/panting very heavily
- Collapses (unable to get up after collapsing)
- Loss of consciousness
What to do (in either case, though there are specifics for both illnesses, these are general suggestions):
Call a vet and alert them to the situation (there is a chance your dog will have to go into the vet)
Get the dog out of the sun and into a cooler environment
Use cool (NOT cold) water all over the dog’s body but particularly under the armpits, on the neck/head area, and on the groin/belly area (areas where blood vessels are typically closer to the surface of the skin). You can use soaking wet sponges, get the dog into a bathtub, or rinse them with a hose. This soaking should take quite a while to help cool the blood. Just to be clear, do NOT use cold water–using cold water can cause the blood vessels to constrict which will slow down the cooling process.
Place your now damp dog in front of a fan–as the fan blows onto the dog, the water will evaporate and cool him/her.
Monitor the dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer.
If there is any increase in temperature or an increase in the severity of the symptoms or if your dog collapses, or loses consciousness or his/her alertness deteriorates, call your vet or an emergency vet ASAP (but remember you should have called your vet already by now so they are aware of the situation and can be ready if you need them).
What to do to keep them busy?!
Playing nosegames inside
Do training activities (teach a new trick)
Take the dog to a local air conditioned pet store to do some practice training
Play “find me” games in the house
101 things to do with a box shaping game
If you have a small pool the dogs can cool off in, you can do short ball sessions outside to help take the edge off but you should keep these very short and focus them earlier in the morning or later in the evening.
Take training classes!! Many facilities have AC and are kept nice and cool. You can get Fido nice and worn out after a fun class while keeping cool in the AC.
You can fill a large plastic bowl full of water, toss in some small toys, chew items/treats, or even kongs and then put a lid on and pup it in a freezer. Once solid, remove your giant yum-filled icecube from the plastic container and let the dogs go to town licking, gnawing and chewing at the ice cube to get to the toys frozen inside.
Go swimming! If you can find a place to swim, it’s such a great option. Dogs can exercise their little hearts out but are also keeping cool by being in the water.
Have a safe and cool weekend!