The Dog Days of Summer in Houston

Ready or not, Summer is here! School is out; the sun stays up late and so do the kids. This is the time for back yard barbecues, family vacations, and long days basking in the sun by the pool. While there is a lot to love about this time of year, there is also a lot to prepare for.

Summertime is brutal here in Houston, and our pets are just as sensitive to the heat as we are. Absolutely nothing makes us happier than thinking of you having fun in the sun with your furry companions, and we know your dog is just as happy to be with you! As we wish you a happy summer, your VVPR family would also like to reach out with a few helpful hints to help keep your pets nice and cool this summer.

  • The intensity of the summer sun can pose a major risk to both you and your pet. When spending time outside it is always important to have fresh water and shade available to rest in.
  • Pets should never be left in hot cars for any length of time—even with the windows rolled down. As hot as it is outside, it is even hotter in that car! The same goes for a garage/shed etc.
  • Sprinklers and Kiddie pools are fun for kids and dogs alike to splash around in to cool off.
  • Consider cooling vests or hosing them down frequently for long days in the sun
  • Take long walks during the cooler parts of the day instead of the afternoon
    • Special note: If the concrete is too hot for your bare feet, it is too hot for their paws! Blistering/burns occur on the soft pads of their little feet!
    • Carry water with you and take frequent breaks to cool down
  • Unlike people, dogs don’t sweat out excess body heat. Your best friend cools down through a rapid, open mouth respiratory pattern called panting which helps them circulate the air that they need to cool down. (Panting makes them thirsty! So, again: Water, water, water.)
  • Our friends with squishy faces (bulldogs, pugs, boxers etc.) are much quicker to overheat! They will likely be ready to go inside long before you are! They require much more frequent breaks indoors with adequate time to cool down before playing again.

There are times we do everything we can to prepare for a hot day, and the sun still gets the better of us. We begin to feel fatigued, lightheaded, or weak; We are thirsty, sunburned, and overall pretty darn miserable. It is on those days especially that we must consider our friends that aren’t quick to complain. A happy dog can run himself (or herself) to the point of heat stroke or exhaustion while forgetting to rest just like we can. Sometimes the temperature within the body rises too quickly and panting may not be enough for your dog to cool down. Heat sickness can be very scary for both of you and it is important to address it immediately if it occurs. Here are some signs that your friend is getting too hot and would benefit from some rest in a cooler area:

  • Excessive panting—if he/she wont stop on their own, encourage them to rest and cool down before continuing to play.
  • Consuming water very quickly– While we encourage continuous access to water, drinking too much too quickly can be a sign that it is time to go inside to rest. Consuming large amounts of water very quickly also makes it hard for your pet to keep it down, which will not help with necessary hydration.
  • Becoming suddenly sleepy/delayed response time—our heads get fuzzy when we get too hot too! This is heat exhaustion and it is imperative that you get your pet cooled down immediately.

Sometimes the early signs of heat exhaustion are too subtle for us to notice, especially when we are distracted. Heat stroke follows exhaustion and is life threatening. Check your pet’s temperature if they seem hot to you. (The best way to check a temperature is rectally, but you can also use an ear thermometer if you have one at home)  It is generally agreed that a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is above normal. If the temperature continues to rise and reaches 106 or higher, your pup is in danger of heat stroke, during which the organs begin to shut down and the heart can stop altogether. If you do decide to cool your pet down at home (if <106) be sure to do so with room temperature water (not cold water) and a circulating fan. Continue to monitor your pet’s temperature and stop cooling efforts at a temperature of 103—the body will continue to cool after you start the cooling process, and cooling your pet too much can result in the opposite effect. If you suspect that your pet has overheated or is experiencing any of these signs, it is time to see a licensed professional immediately.

  • Collapse/convulsions
  • Dizziness/lack of coordination
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gums/tongue that turns blue or bright red
  • Lethargy/loss of consciousness
  • Eyes that are glazed over/unresponsive
  • Fever
  • Racing heartrate
  • Severe panting/wheezing

A good rule of thumb is to check in with yourself. If you are too hot, so is your pet. Find a cool place to relax and cool off together! Being informed about how to prevent/act in the event of heat exhaustion or stroke is key. With that knowledge in your back pocket you are well equipped to enjoy a safe, fun, and happy summer with your very best friend.

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