Summer is officially here, and it’s HOT! With temperatures regularly above 90 degrees and multiple heat waves expected in the coming months, I’ve been looking for some safe summer activities to keep my dog Sueshi cool and active.
For starters, we only go for walks in the early morning or evening. Daytime walks and hikes simply present too many health risks in this heat. Plus, dogs with shorter noses or snouts — like my own shih tzu mix — are at greater risk of overheating, as are dogs that weigh more than 110 pounds.
One easy way I can tell if it’s too warm to walk is by touching the sidewalk with my hand for seven seconds. If it feels too hot to the touch, it’s too hot to walk my dog. Remember, a dog’s paw pads are sensitive and can get burned quickly.
When the temperature creeps up, it’s best to keep your pets indoors in an air-conditioned space and provide enrichment activities. Sueshi enjoys sniffing games — put some kibble or a favorite treat under a box or cup and let your dog figure out how to get to it. Another canine favorite is hide and seek — hide away from your dog, call their name, and reward them when they find you.
If you and your pup seek fresh air, set up a kiddie pool in your backyard or outside space. Toss in a favorite toy and create a slippery game of fetch! While Sueshi isn’t into water sports, many of our shelter dogs appreciate a soak in the play yard on a hot summer day, not to mention the misters that cool down their kennels.
When your pet must be outdoors, ensure they have access to substantial shade and offer plenty of fresh water. Add ice cubes to the water for some mental enrichment and to help with cooling down. You can also try setting up a cooling mat or elevated bed in the shade.
Having trouble keeping your dog cool at home? Consider heading to a dog-friendly beach. One of our favorites is the Del Mar dog beach in San Diego, although there are many others closer to home. Sueshi may not be a fan of the water, but she loves to run and play in the sand.
If the beach isn’t your pet’s thing, try a pet-friendly, air-conditioned store for a break from the heat. Of course, never leave your pet in a hot car. Temperatures inside a vehicle can become deadly within only a few minutes.
Heat stroke is another deadly medical emergency. Signs of heat stroke can include excessive panting, abnormal gums, lethargy, disorientation, heavy drooling, vomiting, collapse or seizures. Your dog’s temperature needs to be lowered urgently, but gradually, for the best chance of surviving. Move your pet to a cool area and pour cool (not cold) water over them. Contact your veterinarian immediately.
Keeping all this in mind, I wish you and your pets a safe and happy summer. Let’s all try to stay cool these next few hot months!
Dia Du Vernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane. pasadenahumane.org
This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on July 8, 2022.