Dr. Anna Dunton-Gallagher
OFF THE LEASH
How hot is too hot to leave my dog in the car?
This is a hard question, because every dog has different comfort levels. A husky will get hot much faster than my barely haired Caribbean dog. 65 degrees in the direct sunlight will heat up a car more than 75 degrees at night with no sun.
My typical cut-off is around 65 in the shade with windows down. However, depending on the day and the dog this may be too hot as well. Your dog should not be panting while resting in a car. Even though my dog loves temperatures of 90 degrees and full sun, that doesn’t mean she will stay in a car that is heated up to 90. My general rule is that if it is too hot for a human, it is WAY too hot for a dog. Always err on the side of caution and leave dogs home when the weather heats up.
My dog loves to swim but never dries in this weather. Is that OK?
Swimming is a perfect summer activity for dogs. It is low impact, keeps them cool and they can swim for much longer than they can run when it is hot. However, we must make sure that their skin is completely dry. This doesn’t have to happen immediately, but they should be completely dry before heading inside for the day or night.
Any dogs with a thick-hair coat will often keep moisture close to their skin for a long time. This helps with cooling, but also creates an environment that is perfect for bacteria to grow. When the skin stays moist bacteria thrive, and dogs get hot spots and infected areas. This is the time of year when we see many thick-coated dogs with skin infections.
I recommend first drying your dog with a towel, waiting a short time, and then drying them again. If they remain wet underneath, I suggest using a hair dryer. We don’t want to burn them, but drying on a warm setting ensures that the skin is completely dry.
How do I know when to exercise my dog in the heat?
My rule of thumb is that if you can’t exercise in long sleeves, it is probably too hot for your dog. Again, different dogs have different heat comfort zones. When I am roasting hot, my dogs are in their full comfort zone, while other dogs are very hot at lower temperatures. If your dog is panting during mild exercise or panting harder than their normal, it is likely too hot. If you are walking on the pavement, make sure you can hold your palm on the pavement without discomfort. Their paw pads get hot very easily.
If you are walking off the pavement, shaded areas are always the best bet for hot weather. This means that they haven’t heated up as much and will remain comfortable on their feet. It also ensures that the temperature will be cooler. Alternately, grassy areas and areas with water to swim are ideal. It is always best to exercise out of the heat of the day, so in the morning before the sun is fully burning down or in the evening as it is setting. Closely monitor your dog for any discomfort, struggling to breathe or abnormal behavior. Heat stroke can be deadly, so always use caution when exercising on those hot days.