Helping your dog Handle the Heat

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On hot summer days, if your dogs can’t be brought inside and need to be outdoors, you must take care so they don’t get overheated.

Dogs are not very efficient at getting rid of heat or cooling off efficiently. Here are some tips to help your dog beat the heat.


Lots of water is essential. The main problem is dehydration, so make sure your dog has lots of water to drink. Some people carry a spray bottle to wet down mouths, paws, and heads for them and the dog. Although not essential, you can add ice cubes in your dog’s water, And for smaller dogs, place frozen ice bottles in their areas so the dog could conceivably choose to lie near them (that is, of course, supervised, so there’s no chewing them up and swallowing the plastic or the lid).

Spray your dog down after a walk. Animals disperse heat through the venal return system of the blood. Think inside of the legs and belly and underside of the neck. Part of the body’s thermostat mechanism is at the base of the brain. What does this mean? When it is hot outside, hose down your dog after a walk. Start at the back and top of the head first. Then down the spinal column (if the weather is cooler, I would not do the spinal column since you’re getting the big muscles in the back, haunches, and shoulder as well, which I wouldn’t want to cramp). And end up with a quick spray down the belly, inside the legs, and under the tail.

Watch the Sun

Limit the time your dog is in the sun/heat. A half-hour is a lot, depending on how hot it is. An hour of rambunctious activity in the heat can push a dog to need 3-4 hours to cool out, depending on their fitness level. Keep an eye on your dog when walking. When a dog pants with its mouth wide open, with its head thrown back while resting so that it seems as if you can see clear down its throat, get into the shade and stop. (Carry shade, e.g., an umbrella, if there’s not likely to be any around.)  Take walks in the early morning or late evening when the sun is down.

Touch the Ground

Dogs can burn their paws, so it is important to check the temperature of the pavement. Feel the pavement, dirt you are going to be on. Many times the pavement is too hot for dogs. There are booties for all sizes of dogs. If you’re planning on doing much pavement walking during the summer — use them! Also, avoid having your dog come in contact with metal, such as a pick-up bed, on sunny days.

Grooming for Summer

Some people think they should shave their dogs for comfort. But this isn’t true. Dogs’ coats trap air to stay warm & cool. If the dog is mat-free, it will stay warmer or cooler. A thick matted coat has no insulative value, just like the fiberglass insulation in our homes. We don’t want it compacted. It needs to trap air to be insulative. And much like we don’t remove the fiberglass insulation in our houses from summer to winter, we shouldn’t shave double-coated breeds. The coat also protects the largest organ of the body from insects, sunburn, etc. Grooming is helpful, especially removing any undercoat. Older dogs don’t shed as easily as younger ones, so more grooming is necessary to get it out. Labs shed almost constantly, more when the weather is hot, so go over them with a mat rake daily in the summer. If a dog is shaved, you should apply sunscreen daily to prevent burning and melanomas. This is also true for the “pink” of lips and naked ears too.” Be very careful when applying sunscreen to dogs. Zinc is poisonous to dogs in MUCH smaller doses than humans. Check ingredients and avoid zinc products and PABA when possible. When using sunscreen around mucous membranes is especially important.

What is Hot to a Dog?

Learn how to check for your dog’s rough temperature by sticking your finger down inside of the ear. Feel the inside of the ear at different times, such as after you’ve been inside, in the evening, etc. Then feel it after you’ve been out walking for a while. If it’s tangibly warm to the touch, the dog is too hot.

Learn what normal respiration and heartbeat rates are. Buy a stethoscope from your local pharmacy. Listen to your dog’s heart (left side of the rib cage). Count the beats over a 15″ count and multiply by four. Count your dog’s respirations by looking at his side go in and out. Count the pulse and respiration after a walk. Check it 15 minutes later, 1/2 hr., one hr., etc. Learn what your animal’s rate of cooldown is. Heartbeat and respiration should not be hanging high an hour later.

Learn what normal capillary refill time is in the gums of your dog. Normal is usually one second. Open the mouth, press your thumb to the gum, let go, count how long it takes for the white where you pressed to disappear. A two or three capillary refill time indicates sluggish circulation and overheating. Also, check what’s normal in the eyes — red eyeballs may be a capillary response, again the body’s attempt to cool down.

If you have a slick-coated dog, you can pull the skin away from the neck and count how long (right away) it takes to spring back. If skin starts tenting and not springing back — you’ve got a severe dehydration problem.

I’ll leave the danger warning signs to the veterinarians and their recommended protocol for heatstroke.

How to Cool off your Dog

During the dog days of summer, water fun is a popular relief from the intense heat and humidity. There’s nothing more refreshing and fun for humans and dogs alike than a splash in the water when temperatures soar. A cool dip in the swimming pool under a hot summer sun is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Sprinklers can be a safer method of water play for older dogs or breeds that do not swim well.

Some dogs love the water and seem to have an instinct for swimming, but many dogs, such as Bassets and Pugs, don’t swim very well.   If you need to teach your dog to swim, start slowly in shallow water and coax him in with toys or treats. Realize that your dog may panic in the water, so don’t allow him to get in deeper than he can handle and never toss a dog into the water. Sometimes a dog will follow the example of a doggy pal who loves to swim.

Heatstroke and sunburn can be a risk.   So if you and your dog are spending the day outdoors, limit your dog’s time in direct sun and apply sunscreen to your dog’s nose and ears.

YouTube video

Water Hose game

You can use the water hose to create a fun chasing game for your dog. Set your water hose nozzle so that it shoots out a jet of water, then move the jet around for your dog to chase. Make sure the water force is not too significant when you spray it on your dog and do not aim it at his face. For this reason, it may be best to only spray at your dog from farther away.

Stop from time to time, do some obedience training, and ensure your dog is not overly excited. Make sure he doesn’t jump on you or the hose during the game. Naturally, this game is not for you if your dog doesn’t enjoy the water.

Your dog may get a bit obsessed with this game, which is similar to the laser dot game. Do not play the laser dot game with your dog because he may develop behavioral disorders from playing it. The water hose game is a bit different because the jet of water comes from the hose, and your dog can catch it, feel it, and drink it. The laser dot, on the other hand, can never be caught. However, your dog may still get obsessed with and want to attack the water hose. If he exhibits this attacking behavior, enforce strict game rules or stop playing the game.


This dog game will give your dog the ability to pick up floating or sunken objects from water, plus it’s fun to watch with other dogs that join the dog party! It is the canine version of bobbing for apples. Since no self-respecting dog is going to get his muzzle wet for an apple, all you need to do is substitute dog biscuits, hot dog slices, or other treats. Experiment to find some that float on top, some that float just below the surface, and some that sink.

If you’re having a summer pool party, you can use a child’s wading pool and let each dog splash around after the treats. For more formal affairs, you can use a large bowl or pot.

Fill your pool or water bowl with lukewarm water. If you’re using a bowl or pot, change the water between contestants; if you’re using a pool, empty it after the entire contest. Let each dog have a practice bob until he gets one treat. Then start the clock and see how many he can grab in two minutes. Can anyone get them all?

A variation on the theme for a ball-crazy puppy is to fill a kiddie pool with tennis balls. The person is allowed to get in the pool and encourage the dog. She can take each ball from the dog as soon as the ball is totally out of the water. The person can even help by picking up balls herself – of course, using only her teeth. See how many balls each dog can pick up and give to his person in one minute.

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs. Gain more canine knowledge through Acme Canine’s social media:  websiteFacebookYouTubeInstagram

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