Animal health expert Daniel Edge, DVM, MBA, says pets don't sweat through their skin like humans, so they rely on panting to cool down. But when dogs are exposed to too much heat, panting may not be enough. Pups can get overheated and quickly suffer a heatstroke. And before you know it, a hot day can become life-threatening for your precious pet.
Dr. Edge says it's important to recognize the signs of overheating in pets, which include: excessive panting, labored breathing, moving slower than usual, bright red or blue gums, lack of coordination, weakness, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you think your dog is experiencing heatstroke or heat stress, call your vet immediately. But of course, it's best to prevent these scary problems from happening in the first place. Here are a few vet-approved tips to keep your dog cool as a cucumber:
1. Make sure your dog stays hydrated. Fill several large bowls with fresh drinking water, and refill them as needed.
2. Add shade wherever you can. If your yard doesn't have natural shade, a portable sunshade or even a patio umbrella are good options. An insulated doghouse with ventilation also makes for a great hideout. Just be sure to adjust the shade as the sun moves throughout the day.
3. Before letting your dog walk on the ground, check how hot it is. To do: Hold the back of your hand against the sidewalk (or wherever you plan to walk) for 7 seconds. If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet’s paws and might lead to burns. In general, it's best to walk your dog earlier in the morning and later at night when the temps are cooler in the air and on the ground.
4. Never leave your pet unattended in a car. Temperatures inside the vehicle can climb to dangerous levels very quickly.
5. Keep your pup entertained with an "ice lick." To do: Place a chew toy in a small bucket or large bowl of water with a bit of low-sodium chicken broth (with no onions or garlic), freeze, and then serve.
6. Fill a kiddie pool up with water. It's an easy way to keep your dog cool and entertained at the same time (talk about a win-win).
7. Pay extra-close attention to dogs that are at particular risk for heatstroke. While every pet is at risk of overheating, some are more likely to suffer than others. Keep a sharp eye out if your dog is very old, very young, overweight, very energetic, a flat-faced breed, has a heavy coat, or has heart or respiratory disease.
For more info about keeping your pet healthy and happy all year long, check out the leading animal health company Zoetis.