Keeping dogs safe in the heat is the responsibility of all pet owners. I am often dismayed at how many people do not think about how pets suffer in the heat and are not adequately protecting them from the many threats they face.
The risk of heatstroke
Heatstroke is a major threat to our pets when hot weather hits and can lead to multiple organ dysfunction. Unlike us humans, dogs can’t sweat to cool themselves so they can heat up very quickly if left inside a car in warm weather, taken out on long walks or runs in the hot sun or left without any shade to escape the suns rays.
It is important to create a safe space at home when it comes to keeping pets safe in the heat, making sure they have access to water and providing shaded areas for their comfort. Remember to keep refilling all water bowls as your dog will be more parched than usual. If you are feeling hot and bothered, your pet will be feeling warmer with their heavy coat of fur.
Leaving them in the car
It takes only 10 minutes for the inside of a car to skyrocket by 20 degrees and we all know about the dangers of leaving our children in the car during the heat. This can escalate even faster for our dogs so leaving them in a car, even with the windows down a bit and parked in the shade, you dog is at risk. So, keeping your dog safe in the heat is vital.
If your dog is showing signs of heat stress, such excessive panting, reddened gums, blood shot eyes, rapid breathing, drooling, wheezing, vomiting, weakness, staggering and loss of consciousness, get them to a cooler environment immediately and continue to hose/wet them down with tap water (not iced) until their breathing settles down. Offer them some room temperature water and get them to a Vet as soon as possible.
Hot footpaths and roads
Another common mistake people make is to take their dogs out for a walk on a hot day which puts them at risk of heat stroke and contact with hot asphalt and cement temperatures. A good way to check if the ground is comfortable for your dog is to see if you are able to comfortably leave your hands on the road or footpath for 10 seconds without it feeling hot.
If it is uncomfortable or you have to move your hand away, then it will make for nasty burns on your dog’s paw pads. A young puppy is even more susceptible to this ,so best to leave them inside where it is cooler on hot days so when it comes to keeping dogs safe in the heat, see how the ground feels with your bare hands or feet before going for a walk.
Be sun smart with your pet
When it comes to keeping dogs safe in the heat, dogs with bare bellies or white coats should definitely avoid laying in the sun as they can quickly get sunburn and, just like us humans, dogs get skin cancer too.
Sunscreens such as Petkin Doggy Sun Stick, can be applied to your pet by first testing out a small area on the body to test for reactions, and then generously applying to areas
least covered in fur. After applying the sunscreen, supervise your pet for a couple of minutes so that the cream can be absorbed without being licked away.
Whether it be at the beach or your backyard pool, many dogs love to cool themselves down by having a quick dip. While this may be beneficial, it is important to keep an eye on
your pets in case they get themselves into any water-related trouble.
In the summer sun your dog may be overheating without realising it, which can lead to dehydration and exhaustion. Exhaustion is dangerous and your pet may struggle to stay
afloat and swim with ease. Keep an eye out for any signs of discomfort and vomiting at the beach, which may be signs of drinking unwanted sea water. For more tips on water safety and dogs, click HERE.
Snake and tick bites
To keep dogs safe from snake bites during warm weather, avoid long grass, rocks and other areas snakes like to rest when you are out on a walk and keep backyard rubbish and wood pile free if you live in a snake-prone area.
If you suspect a snake bite, keep your dog calm and quiet, and get to the Vet immediately. It’s a good idea to know which Vets in your area stock anti-venom, and make sure you call ahead to make sure they do.
Paralysis tick bites can be fatal as they can embed themselves in any part of your dog’s body including paws, so it is important to know the signs to get treatment immediately. Check you dog all over every day, particularly long haired breeds and keep your dogs and cats protected with a flea and tick treatment in tick regions and during summer time in all areas.
Bush fire threat
If you live in a bush fire prone zone make sure you include your pets in the family bush fire survival and evacuation plan. During high bush fire threats make sure you have their leads, crates, food and water bowls ready to take, keep them close and in the house with you.
If a fire has broken out nearby keep them on leads and as calm as possible. Click here for more on how to be prepared for an emergency.
My Top Ten Tips for keeping dogs safe in the heat
Too many people think animals should be able to take care of themselves like they might in the wild, but the situation with our domestic pets is very different.
They rely completely on us for their food, shelter, comfort and if we are not them with the same safe options they would seek out themselves in the wild, we may well be putting them at risk. If it’s too hot for you to be sitting, walking or running outside, then it is even worse for your dog!
1. Always provide shade and cool, fresh water.
2. Leave your dog where it is well-ventilated.
3. Keep your dog out of the sun between 10am – 4pm.
4. Check the heat of the footpath and road with your hands in the summer before walking them. It is best to walk early in the morning or when the sun goes down.
5. Do NOT leave your pets in the car on warm days, even with windows down and in the shade.
6. If your dog is looking uncomfortably hot, cool them down with tap water (not iced) but you can give them ice blocks to lick or in their water bowl.
7. Use sunscreen on exposed noses and keep white dogs or those with bare bellies out of the sun.
8. Keep them away from snake and tick prone areas and get them to a Vet if you suspect heat stroke, a snake or tick bite as these can turn deadly very quickly!
9. Use tick treatments in high-risk areas at all times.
10. Have a bush fire evacuation plan for the whole family, including pets.
There’s also plenty of cool products (excuse the pun) to keep your pets cool in the heat at your local PETstock store or website.
Cooling toys are a great distraction for dogs in summer, simply fill them with water and freeze them overnight to provide your dog with hours of entertainment. PETstock stock he Lexi & Me Cooling Toys in Watermelon and Pineapple. Or, why grab your dog a blow-up pool such as the Lexi & Me Pet Pool, as a way for your pet to cool down in the backyard.
Click here if you would like to watch my Studio 10 appearance discussing Summer Heat Safety.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is a NDTF certified dog behaviourist and trainer, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training and boarding business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of Eat, Play, Love Your Dog.