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Summer is a very dangerous time of year for humans and their canine companions.  High levels of heat and humidity can combine to be a deadly force that affects everyone and everything.  Proper care and precautions must be taken to prevent illness, injury or death from these conditions.  While humans can generally take care of themselves, dogs must depend on their owners to provide the proper care.  Unfortunately, humans can sometimes get so busy that the family pet is overlooked or neglected.  Using basic common sense and some simple rules can help you be sure that your pet is never subjected to unnecessary danger.  

For indoor dogs, you might consider installing a doggy door.  This will assure that your dog can go outside when necessary, but he won't have to wait for you to let him come back in.  This can help keep him from getting overheated and will avoid situations where you might get busy after letting him out and forget to let him right back in.  This could also be a solution for dogs that have to stay outside because you're not able to be at home to let the dog in and out during the day.


  • WATER - the first rule of caring for your pet in hot weather is to be sure that your dog has plenty of fresh clean water daily.  This means he needs to have more water available than he can drink in 24 hours.  If the dog is left outside for more than 10 minutes at a time, he needs to have fresh water left outside daily in a shaded area.  The dog also needs to be given access to water after being brought in from outside.  Consider installing an automatic waterer (in a shaded area) for your dog so that you know he always has water available.  Be sure to check the waterer daily and clean automatic bowls or buckets regularly.
    • POOLS - While a dip in the pool can be a great way for humans and dogs to cool down,  pet owners should keep in mind that not all dogs are good swimmers.  Dogs should never be allowed to swim unsupervised.  Keep pool gates closed and/or keep your dog confined away from the pool area, especially when owners are away from home.   Remember to rinse your dog after swimming to remove the pool chemicals from his coat and be sure those same chemicals are safely stored away from pets.  Don't forget to provide your dog with access to clean, fresh water while swimming so that he is not tempted to drink chemically treated pool water.
  • CAR TRAVEL - the number two rule of summer is to never, ever leave your dog in a vehicle!  During hot weather, even with the windows cracked or slightly opened, the interior temperature of a vehicle can surpass 100 degrees in less than 5 minutes!  Don't think this can only happen on 100 degree days either.  Even on days that only have a temperature in the 80's, sunshine and a closed up vehicle can mean lethal temperatures for your pet.  Even parking in the shade on a hot day is no guarantee that your car won't get overheated with your pet being trapped inside.  So please, leave your pet at home during warm weather unless you will be able to keep him with you.  
  • HOT SURFACES - Another issue during the summer months is city pavement and sidewalks.  Remember when taking your dog out for walks or to play, that concrete and asphalt can become extremely hot.  Additionally, these surfaces can retain heat for significant periods of time, so don't assume the pavement has cooled sufficiently just because the sun isn't shining on it at that moment.  If you must walk your dog on hot surfaces, be sure to protect his feet with boots or some other type of protective gear.  
  • OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES - plan outdoor activities for early morning or late evening to avoid the hottest part of the day.  Remember to limit ball-playing or other activities that could lead to your dog over-heating.  Keep in mind that many dogs love to play so much that they don't know when to quite.  You must set limits on play-times to ensure your dog does not over-do.
    • EXERCISE - don't suddenly begin doing outdoor activities or regular outdoor exercise if your dog is used to being in an air conditioned home all day.  If your dog is not used to regular exercise, is overweight or is older, even a short walk on a hot day could cause a heat-related illness.
    • LEAVING YOUR DOG OUTSIDE - if your dog stays outside for certain parts of the day, you must be sure that there is adequate shade during these times.  Remember that as the sun moves through the day, what looks like adequate shade in the morning may be no shade at all in the afternoon.
    •  SUNBLOCK -  Light coated dogs and dogs with light skin color may need to have sunblock applied on their noses and tips of their ears if they must spend a significant amount of time outside.
    • BAR-B-QUES - Your human family won't be the only ones appreciating the aroma of summer cook-outs!  To prevent burns, remember to keep Fido away from campfires and grills.   Be sure alcoholic beverages and other food stuffs are also out of reach.  (Alcohol is a poison, as are chocolate, raisins, grapes and the sweetener xylitol.  Additionally, even minor changes in your dog's diet can lead to stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhea.)
  • SHELTER - Don't count on a dog house to provide adequate shade.  Dog houses tend to heat up and retain heat throughout the day.  If you must leave your dog outside and a dog house is the only real shade available, try to hang a shade cloth or tarp over a part of the dog run or yard.  Ideally, you should hang the shade cloth over the dog house or so that the dog house is shaded during the hottest part of the day. 

If your dog(s) must stay outside during periods of persistent high heat (consecutive days in the 90's or above), try to provide your dog with access to a cool, well ventilated indoor area such as a garage or basement.   You might also consider installing a special "misting" hose in an area that the dog has access to.  These units can be purchased for around $25, are easily installed by anyone and can significantly reduce the temperature in a specific area.  If a misting set-up is not an option, consider keeping a plastic child’s wading pool filled with fresh water for your dog to cool off in.

  • GROOMING - Owners of double-coated breeds (Chows, Keeshond, and other Arctic breeds), owners of short or pug-nosed dogs (Lhasa Apsos, English Toy Spaniels, Shih Tzus, Bulldogs, and Pekingese) and owners of heavy-coated breeds (Cockers, Old English Sheepdogs, Saint Bernards) must be particularly observant of their dogs that spend time outdoors in hot weather. 
    • Double-coated and heavy-coated breeds will benefit from regular warm-weather grooming.  Keeping double-coated breeds well brushed (removing excess undercoat) will help protect these dogs from high temperatures. Double-coated breeds should not be shaved during summer months unless it is an absolute necessity.  If a double-coated dog is well-maintained, it's hair will actually help insulate the dog from high temperatures. 
    • Heavy-coated breeds will also benefit from having their coats kept clean and tangle free, but these breeds can also have some or all of their hair trimmed to help keep them cool.  Be careful not to trim too short however, as you could set the dog up for severe sunburn if it is light skinned. 
    • Pug-nosed (brachycephalic) dogs must have their airways monitored during hot weather to assure they do not become blocked or restricted by phlegm or saliva.  If a short-nosed dog's airways should become restricted due to congestion, the dog will not be able to efficiently cool itself and will need intervention from it's owner to keep it's temperature properly regulated.


When traveling with your dog, remember to consider the weather conditions of the area(s) you will be traveling in or through.  A dog that lives in the mountains of Colorado most of the year, will not be able to tolerate much exercise or outdoor activity in the summer heat and humidity of Houston, Texas. 

If you're traveling by air during warm weather and wish to take your pet, you will need to keep an eye on the temperature of your departure and destination locations.  While some small Cockers may be able to fit in carry-on "Sherpa" shipping bags, most Cockers will have to fly in a crate, under the plane, in the cargo compartment.  Most airlines have maximum and minimum shipping temperatures for animals being shipped as cargo and each location where the plane will land will have to have a temperature within these guidelines.  If you must travel with or ship your pet during hot weather, be sure to book direct flights when possible. 

It's also wise to try to find flights that leave early in the morning or late at night and which will arrive at the final destination during the cool part of the day.  If you must ship your dog during hot weather, you can help keep him cool by including ice packs under the crate bedding, ice blankets for the dog to lay on or by placing ice bottles in the crate with the dog.  Ice blankets are a commercial product that are frozen after being wet down and which can then be placed in the bottom of a crate.  Ice bottles can be made by taking 2 litter soft drink bottles, filling them with water and freezing them.  In addition to providing a container of fresh water, you can also include a container of frozen water which is then allowed to thaw during the trip.

Signs Your Dog is Overheated:

Initial Symptoms:

  • Excessive panting - rapid breathing

  • Significant, uncharacteristic drooling
  • Soft tissue of the mouth turns bright red - gums and tongue
  • Difficulty maintaining balance - may "post" or spread out the legs to support himself 

Advanced Symptoms:

  • Gums become white or blue
  • Dog will lie down and be unwilling to move
  • May lose control of bowels and bladder
  • Breathing may become noisy and difficult
  • Dog may appear disoriented 
  • Shock


If you believe your dog is showing signs of heat distress, you should immediately try to cool the dog.  Contact your veterinarian and discuss the situation with him.  If your dog becomes over-heated, the quicker he is cooled down and treated, the more likely he is to recover.  If the situation is allowed to reach an advanced state, the possibility of serious complications or death is greatly increased.  If you suspect your dog is over-heated and you are not successful in immediately relieving the situation, you should seek prompt veterinary assistance.

To cool an over-heated dog that is showing beginning symptoms of heat-related distress, you can:

  • Immerse the dog in cool (not excessively cold) water or hose the dog down with cool water.
  • You may apply ice packs to the groin area, the underneath and sides of the neck, to the pads of the feet and in the "armpit" areas.
  • You can offer the dog ice chips to lick and chew on or you may offer SMALL amounts of water and/or Pedialyte to drink.  You can use a bowl to offer the liquid or if the dog is not enthusiastic about taking any liquid on his own, you can try using a spray bottle to squirt small amounts into the dog's mouth. 
  • Applying rubbing alcohol to a dog’s foot pads can also help with cooling.
 To avoid over-cooling the dog, take the dog's temperature every 10 minutes while you are working on cooling him.  You do not want to lower the body temperature too low.  You should discontinue your cooling down treatment once the dog's temperature is between 100 and 102 degrees.


Prevention is always the best cure, so keep the following list of suggestions in mind when planning your warm-weather canine adventures.  Most of these suggestions can also help humans cope with hot weather, so they're a good idea for everyone:

  • When traveling with your dog, take your own shade along.  For the car, invest in reflective window barriers and at least one breathable sunblock tarp.  Be sure to bring some stakes, ties and or bungees to secure your shade tarp.  A golf umbrella can also provide adequate shade in certain situations and is compact and easy to take along.
  • Include a battery operated fan or one that has a cigarette lighter adapter.  If you have a generator or will be someplace with electrical outlets, include a regular box or oscillating fan.  
  • Bring along a gallon or several small containers of bottled water. Don't forget the water bowl!
  • Take towels or a blanket that can be wet down for your dog to lay on. Or invest in a Cooling Bed.
  • Bring along a spray bottle of cold water to spray on your dog or to give him a drink.  Some hand-held battery operated fans include a mister and are good options for cooling your pet.
  • Pack an ice chest with ice AND ice packs.
  • Keep a small bottle of Pedialyte (available in the baby care aisle) on hand for your dog and include some Gatorade for the humans in the group.
  • If you will have your dog in a boat or near water be sure to bring a canine life-vest to protect your dog should he fall in the water.
  • Always keep a spare set of car keys on hand.  If you must stop along the way with your dog in the car, leave the vehicle running with the air conditioner on, the windows slightly opened and the dog safe in his well-ventilated crate.
  • If you must leave your dog in a motor home or truck with a generator running, be sure and check the dog often and ask a neighbor or someone nearby to help you monitor the generator.  Consider purchasing a device that will alert you if your generator should malfunction or a temperature monitor that will sound an alarm if the temperature reaches a certain level.
  • If leaving animals in a motor home, van or truck, you should always leave a window or door partially open or run the exhaust fan.  You should do this even if you have the generator and air conditioning running.  Never leave your vehicle completely shut up.
  • Include canine first aid items in your emergency supplies - alcohol, cotton balls, thermometer, Pedialyte.
  • Investigate the areas you will be traveling through or staying in and always know where the closest veterinarian or emergency clinic is located and keep these addresses, directions and phone numbers handy.


HEAT KILLS!!   Do not blindly trust mechanical devices (generators, vehicle engines and air conditioners) with your dog's life.  Mechanical devices can and do malfunction.  You, and you alone, are ultimately responsible for your dog's well-being and care.  The best prevention and the easiest way to ensure your dog is safe and sound is to never leave him unattended or unsupervised for any length of time. 

Do not trust others to monitor your dog's condition.  You know your dog and will recognize unusual behavior much sooner than a stranger.  In addition, do not expect children to monitor or be responsible for your pet's health.  Children are easily distracted and are not always capable of determining if a dog is over-exerting itself or suffering from heat related distress.  Children and pets should always be supervised by an adult during warm-weather, outside activities or playtimes to assure that a dog does not become over-heated. 

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Copyright © Sandcastle Kennels 2003-2011

Last revised: March 10, 2011