How–and How Not–to Keep Your Dogs Cool in the Summer

huskypoolThe days are long and the air is sticky with humidity. It’s definitely a North Carolina summer! While you’re trying to stay cool, you may also be wondering how to keep your dogs from overheating. You may even be tempted to shave your pet; after all, that thick coat has to be making your dog miserable, right?

Not so fast.

Shaving your dog can actually do more harm than good. First of all, dogs shed more in the summer automatically, which helps keep their coats lighter for those sweltering days. Their hair provides protection from the sun’s rays as well. This may help prevent skin damage that can play a role in certain kinds of skin cancer.

Those furry coats also serve as insulation for dogs’ bodies. It helps them stay warm in the winter and cool during hot weather. If you take that hair away, your pet will have a much more difficult time regulating body temperature–the exact opposite of what you want to happen. And, keep in mind, that shaved hair may not grow back in correctly, which could affect the quality and appearance of your pet’s coat for the long term.

That said, there are certain situations where giving a long-haired dog a good summer trim might be appropriate, but be sure to check with your veterinarian first. If you do decide to get your dog a warm-weather cut, let a professional groomer who is knowledgeable about coat layers handle the job. In any case, you never want to shave a dog down to the skin unless there is a medical reason to do so.

So, how can you help prevent your canine pals from overheating? Take a look at the tips below.

1) Don’t leave pets in your car—not even for a few minutes. Temperatures rise to dangerous levels quickly in vehicles. In fact, it can reach well over 100 degrees even if the windows are cracked.

2) Provide access to shade if you keep your pets outdoors. This is important even if your pet has a doghouse because the shade helps keep the temperature down inside the structure.

3) Make sure they have access to water at all times. Water evaporates quickly during the summer, so keep a close eye on your pets’ supply.

4) Watch their physical activity. Your dog may be ready to run laps, but heat illness can strike fast. If your dog needs that outdoor playtime during the summer, limit it to early mornings or late in the evenings.

5) Consider the health of your pets if you plan to involve them in outdoor activities. All pets are at risk for heat illness, but certain dogs—such as those that are overweight, older, or have medical conditions—are at higher risk for problems from exertion in the summer heat.

6) Know the signs of heat illness in pets. They include:

-Labored or excessive breathing

-Breathing difficulty

-Drooling

-Fatigue or weakness

-Walking difficulty

-Glazed eyes

-Excessive thirst

-Vomiting

7) Cool down your dog if you suspect heat illness. Get him into a shady area or in an air conditioned building. Sponge your pet’s body with cool, but not cold, water to help lower their body temperature. This is an emergency situation, so contact your veterinarian immediately.

Hopefully, following these tips will reduce your dog’s risk of becoming uncomfortable or overheated during the Carolina summer.

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