Houston averages 100 days with high temperatures of 90°F or more. While many people may enjoy hot weather, it can be dangerous, and even deadly, for our dogs. Fortunately, with a little bit of knowledge, we can keep our dogs safe and happy during the hot summer months!

Dogs don’t sweat like humans

Humans have sweat glands all over our bodies while dogs only have sweat glands in their feet. Dogs cool themselves by panting, and if the air that they are bringing into their bodies through panting is no cooler than their body temperature, their cooling system will not work well. This is one of the reasons you should never leave your dog in a car, even with the windows cracked. According to the Humane Society of the United States, “on an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees.” Being in these conditions can cause serious organ damage, and may even be fatal.

Signs of Heat Stroke

According to Drs. Foster and Smith, signs of heatstroke include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive panting
  • Increased salivation
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting (sometimes with blood)
  • Diarrhea

“As heatstroke progresses, it can cause seizures, coma, cardiac arrest, and death.” If you suspect your dog may have heat stroke, get him to a vet immediately. This can’t wait! Start cooling your dog on the way to the vet by applying cool towels in the groin and chest areas, and around his neck. Do not submerge your dog into an ice bath, as cooling too quickly may cause even more problems!

Paw Pads on Hot Pavement

On hot days, you know that the pavement can quickly get hot enough “to fry an egg.” Think about having to walk in bare feet on that! While some dogs who are used to rigorous exercise on rough surfaces may have nicely toughened feet, many dogs who spend their days inside or on grass do not. Be mindful of this when taking your dog outside during hot days, and know that even dogs with tough feet can easily get burned. There are a variety of things you can do to toughen up your dog’s paws and to protect them from the heat. There is a product called Musher’s Secret, which was developed to protect dog’s feet in the snow, but it is also very helpful in hot temperatures, as well. The great thing about this product is that it creates a breathable barrier, which still allows the pads to release heat. You know how awful it is to walk around with blisters on your feet, so check your pup’s feet regularly and get him to the vet ASAP if you discover any burns, blisters or other sores. Read this great article to learn more about paw pad safety during hot summer months!

Cooling Clothing for Dogs

If you know you are going to have your pooch outside on warm days, you might consider buying clothing made just for pets that help to cool your dog off. A colleague of mine has used the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler in the past, and her dog loved it! There are other products out on the market with similar cooling properties, so if this particular style doesn’t strike your fancy, there is sure to be something out there that does!

One of the joys of having a dog is to have a companion for outdoor activities. Just make sure to ask yourself some questions before clipping on that leash. Will there be shade? Will there be access to cool water? Will your dog have to walk on hot surfaces like asphalt or sand (fake grass gets surprisingly hot in direct sun!)? Thinking ahead about the conditions that your dog will be in during these activities will help keep him safe. And if you are unsure about any of these things, it’s best to just leave your dog at home.