Whether you're still enjoying the many pleasures of summer, or so over it and eyeing the pumpkin displays at Michaels longingly, the fact is that we still have a chunk of hot-weather time left before we get into the nippy winds, scarlet leaves, and slow-cooker chili season. And as long as meteorologists are regularly including phrases like "heat index" and "scorcher" in their forecasts, you need to be careful about keeping your dog safe on the hottest of days.
As much as we may consider our pets to be our "fur babies," we have to remember that they're built a little differently from humans. For instance, while we can keep our body temperature regulated in hot weather through sweating, dogs stay cool mostly by panting and a little bit of sweating through their paw pads, according to PetMD. In addition, dogs are so naturally playful and eager to please that they'll go for a long walk or play an extended game of catch in the warm sun, which can put them at risk for heatstroke, according to VetStreet.
No need to spend the rest of the summer cooped in the air-conditioned house, however. With these hacks to keep your dog cool under your belt, you and your pet should be able to make the most of the last weeks of the season. (Trust us: It won't be long before you start sighing about the freezing temps and the piles of snow that need shoveling.)
Do the "touch test"
When is it too hot to take a walk with your four-legged friend? Easy. Put your bare hand on a section of sidewalk where the sun is shining. If it's too hot to keep your fingers on the ground for long, then it's too hot to take your dog out. A dog's paw pads can get burned easily, warned the American Kennel Club (AKC). Wait until the sun goes down, or invest in booties to keep your companion's feet safe.
Make a cool wrap
Just like humans, dogs can overheat easily, and they can't sweat as efficiently as we can. You can help keep your canine friend cool by soaking a bandana in cold water, freezing it for a few minutes, then wrapping it around your dog's neck, advised CitizenCanine.
Make a "dogsicle"
Giving your pup something cold to lick will help ward off the heat. It can be as simple as putting ice cubes in their water dish, or, for a longer-lasting treat, try this recipe, courtesy of Rover.com: At the bottom of a shallow bowl or pan, put one of your dog's toys and some doggie snacks. Add water or chicken broth (and some peanut butter for extra protein) till the pan is full, then freeze until solid.
Hold off on the haircut
While some dog breeds, especially large dogs with thick coats, may need a summer clipping to stay cool, dogs with short coats don't need clipping, advised PetMD. A dog's fur actually helps insulate it in hot weather, so cutting it may do more harm than good. If your vet does recommend a haircut, go to a professional rather than trying to do it yourself, and leave at least an inch of hair on your pup's body to prevent sunburn.
Make some doggie ice cream
Who doesn't love some ice cream on a blazing day? While it may be tempting to give your pooch a lick of your cone, milk and cream products may upset her stomach. Instead, make them a dog-friendly confection. HGTV has a great recipe.
Take extra precautions with certain breeds
Dogs with flat muzzles, such as bulldogs and French bulldogs, pugs and boxers, are known as brachycephalic, according to the AKC. As such, they're prone to overheating, because they can't cool themselves down as efficiently through panting as other breeds. If your dog falls within these breeds, take extra care not to let it stay outside or overexert itself during hot weather. Keep your dog in a cool shady spot outdoors, or let it relax inside until the sun goes down.
Skip the car trip
Unless you're going somewhere where dogs are welcome, it's best to leave your fur baby home while you run errands. Leaving your dog in the car on a hot day for even a few minutes can be disastrous, explained WebMD. The inside of a car on a warm summer day can go up to 102 degrees or higher in just 20 minutes, even if you leave the window slightly open.
Bring out the wading pool
If you have a dog who can't get enough of the water, it may be worthwhile to invest in a kiddie pool that's designed for dogs. Fill up your pool and invite your dog to lie in it or splash around while the rest of the family plays in the yard.
Invest in some cooling products
Love being outdoors in the summer, but worried about your pet's comfort? There are lots of items on the market that can help keep dogs cool in between walks and games of fetch. Specially designed cooling mats, shelters, and fan systems provide a safe oasis from the sun's rays, allowing you the freedom to stay outside longer while still ensuring your pet's safety.