Summer may not officially start until Monday, but the weather isn’t waiting.  The hot days are already here, and no doubt you’ve already made steps to beat the heat.  As you pull down your summer clothes, turn on the AC and stock up on water, don’t forget to take care of your dog during these dog days.

dogrunningDogWatch Hidden Fences has compiled a checklist to help keep your dog healthy in the summer heat.

1)      Keep your home cool

We know that keeping the AC on at home while you are at work can be expensive.  At the same time, it is important to maintain a healthy temperature if you leave your dogs in the house on really hot days.  If you have an air conditioner, setting it to a higher temperature, such as 80 or even 85 degrees, will be a little easier on your wallet while helping to keep the house from getting too hot when the outside temperature reaches 90 or above.

Hydration is also important.  Make sure your dogs have plenty of water during the summer.  Plan to bring along water during long walks and any trips out of the house.

For dogs that stay outdoors during the day, make sure that they have plenty of readily accessible shade and water.  DogWatch Hidden Fence users will want to make sure that there is enough shade in the fence area for their dogs, and that they leave plenty of water for their dog within that area.

2)      Don’t leave your dog in the car

This tip is a frequent refrain of veterinarians and other dog health experts, with good reason.  Even during the cooler days of summer and even with windows open and even in the shade, a car’s temperature can quickly rise to dangerous levels in a very short amount of time.

To see just how hot cars can get, visit and see the results of a car heat study.  This site notes that “a study from Stanford University shows that even on comparatively cool days, such as 72 degrees, a car’s internal temperature will rocket to 116 degrees within 60 minutes. And keeping the windows open a crack hardly slows the rise at all.”

In short, leaving your dog alone in the car in the summer is extremely dangerous, and should be avoided.  Your dog will thank you, even if it means he or she cannot come along for the ride.

3)      Watch out for signs of heat stroke

Whereas we sweat when it gets hot, dogs pant.  Moderate panting is normal, but if it gets excessive, it could be a sign of potential heat stroke.  Other signs include staggering, vomiting, dark or bright red tongue and gums, and high body temperature.  (Read more about heat stroke signs and how to detect them here.)

Heat stroke is extremely dangerous for dogs.  If you notice that your dog is showing signs of heat stroke, bring him or her to the vet as quickly as possible.  Cooling down the dog is also important, but don’t go from one extreme to another.  A very cold bath does more harm than good – make sure the water is cool but not ice cold.

Finally, owners of Brachycephalic (i.e. flat-nosed) breeds should be particular alert during hot weather.  These pets, which include pugs, bulldogs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke.  Martha Stewart’s pet expert Marc Morrone suggests that you place ice cubes in a tube sock and tie it loosely around their necks to keep them cool.

Also at greater risk of heat stroke: senior, overweight, thick-coated or otherwise ill dogs.  As always, consult a veterinarian if you have any specific questions or concerns about your dog’s behavior during these hot days.

4)      Give your dog a haircut!

You would not go out for a walk in the heat wearing your winter coat.  Why let your dog do the same?  A simple summer haircut can help your dog manage much more efficiently in the hot temps.

Just make sure you don’t cut it too short, warns the ASPCA.  Leaving one inch of hair helps prevent the dog’s delicate skin from the sun.

5)      Protect Your Dog’s Sensitive Skin and Paws

A dog’s skin, like yours, can burn in the sun.  In addition to general discomfort, frequent sun exposure could result in melanoma (skin cancer), the most common type of cancer found in dogs.  (To learn more about skin cancer in dogs, click here.)

To help protect your dog from the sun, apply sunscreen to their nose and ear area.  Light colored and short haired dogs are the most susceptible, so make sure you protect them.  Experts also recommend using “baby sunscreen,” which will be gentler for your dog.

Finally, dog’s paws also suffer in the hot weather.  Try to avoid walking the dog on hot asphalt, as it could damage or even burn their paws and cause pain.

6)      Don’t Forget the Ice Cream!

Reward your dog for coping with the heat by letting him or her enjoy a favorite summer treat – ice cream!  Purina’s “Frosty Paws” treats are available in most grocery stores, and many ice cream shops are catching up to the trend with their own dog-friendly treats.

For the budget conscious or creative types, you can even create your own ice cream treats for your dog with a few simple ingredients.  Try this Frozen Strawberry Smoothie recipe from Irresistible Pets, and find more summer treat recipes on our blog.

By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your dog will have a healthy and happy summer.  Remember, summer should be fun for the whole family – pets included!

Check back in soon for more summer information, including coping with thunderstorms and fireworks and pool safety tips.  And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter or Facebook so that you don’t miss the latest news, tips and stories just for pet owners like you!