The warmer weather seems like it is finally here to stay, and pet owners are increasingly spending more time outside with their dogs. Whether it’s a trip to the Meaford leash-free dog beach, a hike along one of our many beautiful trails, or a simple walk around the block, there are things to consider before bringing your pooch outside during the hottest summer days.
First of all, before you go outside, consider a few things: the outside temperature, the environment you will be in, and the time of day.
A romp in the lake is among the safest ways for dogs to keep cool on even the hottest days, however, walking on the sidewalk or road, with the sun beating straight down at mid-day, may present some real risks to your dog’s health.
If it’s too hot to feel comfortable yourself, chances are it’s too hot for your dog to feel comfortable. At approximately 20°C, the outside temperature begins to enter the realm of being too hot for many dogs. Give extra consideration to outside conditions once the temperature surpasses the 20°C mark. For example, if it’s an overcast day with a nice breeze, your pooch will fare much better than on a 20°C day with heavy humidity and direct sun.
The hotter it gets, the more difficult it is for your dog to regulate normal body temperature. As far as cooling mechanisms go, panting is a fairly inefficient means of doing so. It is ill-advised to walk your dog in weather that is 30°C or more, as the risk of dehydration, heat stroke, and more, increases substantially at this point.
First things first, never leave your dog unattended in a vehicle during the warmer months – even on a day that feels cool. Temperatures within a vehicle on a 10°C day can become deadly in less than 20 minutes.
Dogs are allowed to swim on-leash in all Meaford beaches, and are also permitted for off-leash play at the Memorial Park off-leash dog beach. Taking your dog to the beach is a wonderful way to let them cool off and get some much-needed exercise in a way that allows for safe body temperature regulation.
Hiking and camping are great bonding activities that provide your dog with much needed exercise and stimulation. On hot, sunny days, be sure to stick to wooded, shady trails with a good breeze. If it’s too humid or warm for you to hike at a brisk pace, then it isn’t a safe time for your dog, either.
To relieve themselves and get much-needed exercise, most dogs require a minimum of two outings per day. Pavement and concrete sidewalks can become dangerously hot very quickly. In fact, on a hot day, dogs can suffer from serious burns to their paws in a matter of seconds. To check whether the ground is too hot for your dog’s sensitive pads, place the back of your hand on it for 5 to 10 seconds. If it is too hot to do so comfortably, then it is too hot for your dog to walk on. Metal grates and manhole covers are also excellent conductors of heat, so be extra vigilant in preventing your dog from walking on these extremely hot surfaces.
The Time of Day
In the warmer months, and especially on hot sticky days, it’s best to walk your dog early in the morning or later in the evening. During mid-day, when the sun is beating directly down, your pooch can overheat very quickly – especially if he has a thick undercoat like a Bernese Mountain Dog, for example.
If your dog begins to pant heavily after just a few minutes outside, take them to a cool, shaded place right away. Also, be sure to provide your dog with plenty of fresh cool drinking water.
Did you know dogs can also suffer from sunburns? This is especially a risk with short-haired dogs, hairless breeds, and dogs with certain skin conditions. Noses, ears, bellies, and other sensitive areas are most at risk of sunburn. For dogs at high risk for sunburn, consider applying a pet-safe sunscreen to sensitive, exposed areas as needed.
From heat-wicking cooling vests and collars, to gel-filled cooling beds, there are many cooling aids to help your pooch beat the heat throughout the hottest summer days.
While dogs use panting as their main cooling mechanism, dogs sweat through their paws, as well. Trimming the excess hair from their foot pads may help the feet breathe a little better.
Fur is a very good insulator. Whether it’s an undercoat grooming tool, or a visit to your favourite pet groomer, removing or thinning the undercoat can also help keep your pooch cooler.
When it comes to outside time, if you’re in doubt, don’t take them out (for long). Time your outings accordingly, shorten the duration of walks, and using cool-down techniques will allow you to enjoy the best of what summer has to offer.
Let’s all have a safe and enjoyable summer!
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.