Everyone loves a good sun shiny day in the summer where hardly a cloud can be seen in the bright blue sky. These beautiful days have us wanting to get outside and do all sorts of fun activities. For those of us that have dogs, that usually means we are bringing our dogs along for the ride as well. As we all know, the sun and heat can pose a lot of health concerns for us. But what about our furry friends? Does the sun and heat have the same effect on them? The short answer is yes. Let’s break this down and dive a little deeper into what to look out for in order to keep our pups safe.
What’s the one thing we all strive to do more once the weather gets warm in Wisconsin? Taking our wonderful dogs out for a walk around the neighborhood or a hike in the woods. So, what should we be mindful of while out for a stroll? When the temperatures start increasing, we as humans can choose weather-appropriate clothing options. Our pups on the other hand have one type of fur coat and that’s it. Depending on your dog’s breed and coat style, warm weather can start to become uncomfortable. Hot, steamy weather can be downright dangerous. Temperatures in the mid-70s and 80’s can become problematic for pups that are being highly active or are left outside for long periods of time. As responsible dog owners, we want to be sure we have water available to them at all times and watch out for excessive panting or labored breathing. Another thing to be aware of is the temperature of the pavement the dog may be walking on. Even if the air temperature is hovering around 80 degrees, the pavement can be much hotter. With the right conditions of full sun, no wind, and an air temperature of 80 degrees, concrete can be around 95 and the asphalt can be a blistering 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The best way to be sure if the pavement is safe for your dog to walk on is to place the back of your hand against the pavement and leave it there for 7 seconds. If you are comfortable keeping your hand there for the full 7 seconds, the pavement should be safe for your dog to walk on. Obviously, if you can give their paw pads a rest by allowing them to walk on the grass here and there, that would be ideal. The reason we worry about pavement temperature is that any prolonged exposure to temperatures around 125 degrees can have very damaging effects on the skin. Even though dog paw pads are thicker and more calloused than our skin, walking on hot pavement can cause burns, making the skin on the pads peel off. If you have ever burned your hand on a hot pan, you can imagine how painful it would be to have to walk on skin that is raw and peeling off. Ouch!
Road trips, whether it be to the Grand Canyon or just around the block to the grocery store, can be a lot of fun for some pups. If you happen to bring your dog along for the literal ride, in the car, be mindful of the temps outside. As we all know, the interior of our cars can get very hot on a sunny summer day. Therefore, leaving our pups in the car while we run into the store can potentially be very dangerous. Just 10 minutes in a parked vehicle with an exterior temperature of 80 degrees can have the interior of the car soaring to 99 degrees! It should go without saying then that any longer in that hot car would have your pup melting into a puddle on your backseat. Here are a few signs of heat stroke to watch out for if you have your pup out with you on a hot summer day. The first sign will be rapid panting with dry or sticky gums and a bright red tongue. Weakness, lethargy, and disorientation soon follow, with many dogs also vomiting and having diarrhea. If you see these signs in a dog, immediately move them to a cool area and wet them down from head to toe with water. Cooled towels can be applied to the head and chest area to aid in the cooling process. Once you have started the cooling process, take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as humanly possible.
What if you are just playing with your dog outside in your backyard? Can these same heat-related problems plague you and your dog there too? Most definitely. When playing with your pup out in the yard be sure to have water available for them to drink and a shady place to escape the sun. If your dog likes to play with water, you could even set up a kiddy pool for them to splash around in. And if you ask me, those kiddy pools make a great place to put your own bare feet on a scorching hot afternoon. Be mindful of how different breeds handle the heat as well. A young Labrador may be able to run after a frisbee for what seems like forever, while a Pug or other brachiocephalic (smooshed nose) breeds may have trouble just walking across the yard. Size also plays a role in how well our dogs can handle the heat. Large breed dogs like the Mastiff and Great Dane also have a hard time in the heat because of the sheer mass they need to keep cool. With all this tucked in the back of your mind, please enjoy the beautiful Wisconsin summer. We all know it is too short to begin with. Be safe and have fun!