The summer is fast approaching. As the days grow longer and hotter, an abundance of fun outdoor activities can be had. But for those of you who have recently taken a puppy into your life, and for anyone who’s considering doing so, the hot summer months pose a unique danger to puppies and all pets—overheating.
Whether at home, in your car, or outside at the park, beach, or pool, the risk of your puppy overheating could become present. That’s why it’s important to know how to prevent your puppy from overheating and to be able to recognize the warning signs if your puppy begins to overheat.
In this article, Petland Kansas City will lay out all the information you need to keep your new puppy cool and comfortable this summer.
WHY DO DOGS & DOMESTIC ANIMALS OVERHEAT?
Unlike humans, dogs and other domestic animals are incapable of sweating. The biology of human beings has a specific, fast, and highly effective method of preventing environmental overheating. We sweat. As we sweat, heat gets pulled out of our bodies in the form of water, and as this sweat water cools and evaporates off of our skin, we cool down internally. A breeze from a fan or natural wind helps to cool our temperature down faster. The biology of dogs does not include this system despite the fact that dogs do have a few sweat glands.
Instead of sweating like humans, dogs pant. Panting, which is heavy and fast breathing, serves to rid the dog’s body of heat via exhalation. The dog exhales body heat and inhales air, which must be cooler than the dog’s internal temperature in order for this method to succeed.
When a dog is stuck in a hot apartment, for example, and inhales hot air as he pants, he won’t be able to properly cool off. This can quickly lead to overheating, which can be fatal in dogs and puppies.
WHERE ARE DOGS MOST LIKELY TO OVERHEAT?
The fast, straightforward answer to this question is, whenever you aren’t with them. More often than not, dogs are in the worst danger of overheating when they are left all by themselves. When they are in the company of their owners, the owners, if educated, will recognize the early warning signs of overheating and do something to cool their dog before he truly becomes overheated.
Be aware that the following scenarios run the risk of causing your dog to overheat:
- Leaving your dog in your car. You might intend to rush into the store and spend no longer than two minutes, but whenever you leave your dog in your car on a hot day, there is a built-in risk that he could overheat. For unexpected reasons, you could be caught up in the store for way longer than you intended, and that’s when the risk of overheating becomes real for your dog.
- Leaving your puppy at home alone. For new puppy parents and dog owners alike, leaving your dog home alone is simply part of life and can’t be avoided. As long as you have a cooling system in your home, like air conditioners, then the risk of your dog overheating is extremely low and would probably only occur in the event that your home lost power. For this reason, it’s a great idea to use a doggy camera that has audio so that you can keep an eye on your puppy, and if the live feed suddenly cuts out, you’ll know your home may have just lost power.
- Keeping your puppy outside in direct sunlight. Whether your puppy is outside with you or by himself (which we don’t recommend), your puppy could overheat if he’s exposed to direct sunlight with no shade available. Even if you’re outside with your puppy and to you it doesn’t seem that hot, your puppy could still overheat. Good precautions to take are to make sure your puppy has access to shade and that there is a bowl of cool water nearby. Equally important, we recommend that you familiarize yourself with the overheating warning signs in the next section so that you’ll know what to do, as you keep a close eye on your puppy.
SIGNS YOUR PUPPY IS OVERHEATING
During outdoor activity, dogs pant when exercising and when it’s warm and hot out. Panting shouldn’t automatically be a cause for concern, but with regard to your puppy, we recommend that if you notice your puppy panting, you drop everything to cool and calm him down. The reason for this is that puppies overheat much easier than adult dogs.
The early warning signs that your puppy is overheating include:
Salivation, or for “drooling” breeds extreme salivation
Bright-red membranes (nose, tongue, gums)
If you notice any of these warning signs, you should take your puppy to the emergency vet right away, and in the meantime, cool him down by wetting him with cool (never cold) water, encouraging him to drink cool water, and of course getting into the cold air conditioning of your car (assuming that you will be driving him to the vet). It’s important not to wet or submerge your dog into cold water because “rapid cooling,” i.e. cooling down too fast can be dangerous if not fatal.
Early Warning Signs to Watch For
Since puppies are far more likely to die from being overheated, we strongly recommend that you act fast when you recognize these early warning signs. Doing so will help prevent your puppy from becoming text-book overheated.
The biggest early warning sign is panting. While you wouldn’t want to overreact if you observe your puppy panting during or after play, the fact of the matter is that if it’s a hot day and your puppy is in a warm or hot environment and he starts panting, then you should quickly cool down the environment or bring him into a cool environment. By doing this, you can avoid overheating and a trip to the vet.
Another early warning sign is if your puppy feels “too hot” to the touch. If you’ve had your puppy for a few weeks or a few months, you’ve probably gotten a good idea of his body temperature. If he’s outside on a hot day, and the soft skin of his belly feels too warm or too hot, then you should move him to a cool location and monitor his temperature to ensure that he cools down.
In short, the early warning signs to look out for are:
Being “too hot” to the touch
HOW TO PREVENT YOUR PUPPY FROM OVERHEATING
Preventing your puppy from overheating in the first place is all about keeping him in a cool environment in the first place and making sure he has access to cool, fresh water at all times. The following are more specific instructions to be aware of:
- Don’t expect to keep your dog outside for very long if it’s a hot day
- Have a variety of cooling products on hand, such as a fan, handheld fan, and a towel that you can wet with cool water and lay over your hot dog
- Don’t leave your dog in the car—with windows cracked or not. Even on a cool day (the mid-60s), the temperature in a closed car rises to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in minutes. The dog’s own body temperature increases the heat and moisture inside the car, the oxygen then gets used up, and death can occur within 15 minutes!
- Acclimate your dog to hot weather gradually and don’t exercise him on hot, humid days. (Working and sporting dog breeds, even water retrievers, can overheat if the water is warm.)
- Make sure your home is cooled on warm days, especially if you must leave your dog home alone. Install a temperature alarm in your home that will alert your cell phone automatically if the temperature rises above 85 degrees. Installing a doggy cam is also helpful.
- Don’t place a crated dog where there is inadequate ventilation in warm, stagnant air under tents or in poorly ventilated buildings.
- Although a dog’s coat can provide insulation, double coats make a dog more vulnerable to overheating and dark coats absorb heat faster in the sun. Consider taking your dog to a groomer to be sheared in order to help him stay cool all summer.
- Ask your veterinarian about your dog’s breed in terms of the potential for overheating.
From everyone at Petland Kansas City, we hope you and your new puppy have a fun, safe summer! Are you looking to add a new furry friend to your family? If you’re in the Kansas City area, we invite you to stop in our pet store to meet the new arrivals and speak with our pet counselors about the best breeds for your lifestyle, home, and family!