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Listen to Your Dog When They Tell You They Are Too Hot

I want to make sure that you are thinking about the health and safety of your dogs during these warm months. If you have not noticed, it is getting hot out there. And if you are out there walking your dog in the heat, you will need to listen to them. They are talking to you, but you just need to hear them.

You need to carry water with you at all times for your dogs when you are walking. This is very important, because you do not want to cause your dog any harm. Remember, your best friend wants to please you, and they will do what ever you ask of them. This may mean pushing themselves to do what you ask. But they will give you signs of thirst and
overheating.

Of course, heavy panting is a big sign that your dog may be thirsty. Dogs usually start panting as soon as you begin your walk, but of course they are not thirsty yet. This is just the way their system works. So it is your responsibility to just stop at regular intervals to see if they will drink some water, and allow them to cool off in the shade. These intervals will vary depending on a number of factors that I will talk about.

Temperature is the main issue here. If it is really hot outside, simply do not walk your dog in the heat. Instead, walk your dog at cooler times of the day, such as early morning, or later in the evening as the temperature and the sun goes down. If you must walk¬† your dog during the day, keep it short. Try to walk in shaded areas. Allow your dog to do their business, and go back inside to cool down. Exercise is key to a dog’s health, but give them exercise when it is cooler.

Now, back to the water issue. What I do is I carry a fanny pack with pockets for 2 large water bottles. This keeps it out of the way, but handy when I need it. I also carry a collapsible water bowl that folds up in my pocket when not in use. You can get these at any pet store, and they are a cheap but important investment.

So, whenever I feel a dog needs a water break, I find a shady spot and take a break to get the dogs out of the sun and let them cool off. I fill the bowl with enough water to offer the dogs enough water for this little break. If I need to fill more water in the bowl, this is fine. I do suggest not filling it too much, because you can always add more. It is hard to put water back into the bottle, and you will end up throwing out the excess water. And if you end up wasting too much water, you may run out during the walk. You may have a different system that you want to use for providing water during a walk, but it is vital that you do.

Another thing you need to think about is they color of your dog’s coat, and their breed. Dogs with black or dark coats will get hotter than lighter colored dogs. This is elementary science that everyone knows, but bears repeating. Black absorbs heat, as will darker coats. Your darker colored dog can become overheated very quickly in the heat and sun, and you may not even realize it. Dogs with heavy coats will also heat up quickly.

Does this mean lighter dogs do not have to worry about the heat? Of course not. Lighter colored dogs can get overheated very easily too. A lighter coat means that they will be slightly cooler, but believe me, not by much. And, dogs with light colored coats also have to worry about getting sunburn. A dog with a lighter colored coat also has lighter colored skin, and can easily become burned. You can apply sunscreen to those areas where skin is exposed, as long as your dog cannot reach to lick it off. This also applies to dark
colored dogs.

Also, dogs with short muzzles, such as pugs, bulldogs, Boston terriers, etc., can get overheated quickly too. As you know, dogs (and cats) cool themselves by panting. Short muzzle dogs have a harder time bringing in enough air to help displace heat from the dog’s tongue. Just a note, dogs also dispel heat through their feet (cats too).

Overweight dogs, and dogs with limiting physical conditions cannot keep up in the heat and sun. Of all these cases, your dog may need more frequent water and shade breaks during a walk.

Do you walk on grass, concrete, or blacktop? Try to walk your dog on surfaces that do not get heated up. Grass surfaces are the best to walk on during a hot, sunny day. Even dirt surfaces get pretty hot. Concrete gets hot too, but not as hot as blacktop. And there is a lot of asphalt surfaces out there.

Watch your dog as they walk. If your dog speeds up on any particular surface, their feet may be burning. If you stop walking, and your dog looks like they are jogging in place, lifting their feet alternatively, then the ground is too hot. Get moving to a cooler surface. If your dog suddenly starts limping, this can be another sign that the ground is too hot. Try to get to a cooler surface quickly, then check your dog’s feet for any objects that may be causing the limping, just to be sure.

Other ways your dog may be telling you they are too hot is a drooping head, tail, or both. Excessive panting, drooping ears, redness on the insides of the ears, a tongue hanging out of the mouth which may be enlarged or redder than normal, labored breathing, unwillingness to move, redness of the mucous membranes, or excessive salivating.

To cool down your dog quickly, get them out of the heat and sun. You can spray them with cool water. when using a garden hose, run it for a few minutes until the water coming out is cool. You can place soaking wet towels aroung the head, chest, feet, neck, and abdomen. You can also place a fan directly at your dog.

Please listen to your dog when they are telling you they are hot and need water. If you do not listen, and they start vomiting, have diarrhea, or act confused or drunk, then they have entered the danger zone and you should call your veterinarian immediately.

The signs of an overheated dog also applies to cats. Although cats do not generally get taken out for walks, a hot home can have the same effect on both dogs and cats.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • jennifer May 27, 2009, 2:57 am

    Very informational blog post…do you have any suggestions for dog sunscreen? How about walking your dog with a cooling vest?

  • Rick Delgado May 28, 2009, 2:45 am

    Hi Jennifer,

    You can use a children’s sunscreen, and now they also make a specific sunscreen for dogs. Cool vests for dogs are a great idea too. They do work well and will keep your dog cooler. Thanks for these great ideas, and I think I will write a quick post about this.

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