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How to Keep Your Dog Cool in the Summer

When the mercury rises, keep your pets' temperatures low.
By Colleen Oakley
WebMD Magazine - Feature
Reviewed by William Draper, DVM

Does summer weather beckon you outside for a game of catch with your favorite four-legged friend? Not so fast. If you're feeling the heat, you can bet your dog is, too. And for him, overheating can be dangerous -- even deadly.

"Heatstroke is by far the greatest concern," says Andrea Hilden, DVM, a veterinarian with Animal Care Center of Green Valley in Arizona. A Hebrew University study found that 50% of dogs suffering from heatstroke won't survive.

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Also known as hyperthermia, heatstroke happens when a dog's body temperature rises above the average 102.5 F and can't be controlled by normal cooling processes, such as panting. Warning signs include exhaustion, vomiting, diarrhea, and, at its worst, confusion and seizures. Here's how to keep your dog cool and healthy all summer long (and even get in a few games of outdoor catch).

Follow Fido's lead. "The No. 1 sign that a dog's core temperature is getting too high is fatigue," Hilden says. "If you're out for a hike with your dog on a hot day and he's searching for every shady spot to lie down in, turn around and carry him home."

Don't let the temperature fool you. Dogs can get overheated in weather as low as 80 F. Add in humidity and vigorous exercise and it could be a recipe for disaster. "If you can't comfortably sit outside for an extended period of time, then don't let your dog do it, either," Hilden says.

Change your walking time. Dogs still need exercise in the summer, but it's best to avoid the hottest parts of the day. "Try going early in the morning or late at night after the sun has set," she says.

Don't give your dog a haircut. It may be tempting to shave your pup's thick hair in an effort to cool him off for the summer, but Hilden says it could do more harm than good. "A dog's coat provides a buffer to help him regulate his body temperature," she says. "Trimming his hair doesn't make him any less susceptible to heat."

Don't use ice. If your dog displays heatstroke symptoms, wet him down with room temperature water and put him in front of a fan. "Your first instinct might be to pack ice packs around him or cool him off as quickly as possible, but the cold causes his blood vessels to constrict, and when they constrict they can't dissipate heat," she says. Call your vet and take your dog in immediately for treatment.

Expert Tip

"The first thing you should do if you think your dog might be suffering from heatstroke is take his temperature with a rectal thermometer. It's good info for your vet to know to give a better prognosis. A dog whose temperature got up to 107 has a worse prognosis than one who only got up to 105." -- Andrea Hilden, DVM

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