It’s hot and your dogs are wearing fur coats — here’s how to keep them safe


My sweet Ginger, who went over the Rainbow Bridge a few months ago, was a former street dog who would lie down and refuse to move once the temps went above 80 (sometimes 75). Most dogs aren’t that savvy (or lazy). And we humans have been known to put our pets in danger in the heat.

 We’re hitting triple-digit temps: Let’s keep our dogs (and other pets) safe in the Texas summer. 

Safety first

Let’s talk cars: It’s already too hot to leave dogs in a parked car for any length of time without air conditioning. Check out the chart below from one of our favorite dogs about town, Kaxan, that shows just how fast your car will heat up, even in the shade (and cracking the windows does not help).

Travis County EMS recommends checking that your pet can go inside any destination before you leave home, and leaving your dog at home if not.

Cars aren’t the only danger during our sizzling season. More hot weather pet tips from Travis County and PETA:

  • Keep dogs inside. They can’t sweat like humans and they’re wearing fur coats. Panting is their main way to release heat, and that won’t be enough when it’s really hot, especially if they’re forced to move around.
  • Speaking of moving around, don’t over-exercise your dog in high temperatures. Keep outdoor activity to dawn and dusk as much as possible, not the heat of the day. Carry water for you and your dog, and look for routes with water access, so your dog has a place to get wet and cool off (make sure dogs are allowed).
  • If you usually run with your dog, how about a walk instead? Dogs want to please and can push themselves past the point of safety, just to keep up. If your dog collapses in the heat, it might be too late.
  • Avoid hot pavement. A general rule: If the surface is too hot for your bare foot, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws. If you have to cross asphalt or another hot surface, keep your dog moving (don’t stand). Walk in grass as much as possible.
  • Don’t put your dog in the bed of a pickup truck. A sudden stop could throw your dog from the truck, or your dog could strangle itself she’s tethered to the truck and jumps out.
  • Provide plenty of water and shade for pets when they are outside, and do the same for outdoor animals as well. Account for shifting sun patterns.

Know the signs

Do you know when your dog is getting dangerously over-heated? A lot of folks don’t. The City of Austin posted signs on the hike-and-bike trail a few summers ago urging other people to alert owners when dogs appeared to be getting too hot. I learned these signs from my longtime trainers at the Canine Center for Training and Behavior:

  • Heavy panting, breathing or drooling, and restlessness.
  • A large tongue that appears to “bell out” at the end.
  • Dry or discolored gums (not easy to spot if your dog has darker gums).
  • A racing or erratic pulse.
  • If your dog is “dancing” on a surface, he might be trying to keep his feet cool.

Cool tools

 A quick inquiry to dog-loving folks on Facebook and an online search turns up more than a dozen products designed to help keep your dog cool when the temperature rises. Here are a few that can be used before, during or after outdoor activities (most available online and in stores). Remember: None replaces common sense and care in the heat. 

Around the neck: Wet and freeze a bandanna for a simple cooling tool. Two products you can buy (among others): The KoolCollar, a hollow collar filled with a cooling gel tube for indoor use (less messy) or ice cubes for outside. ($18 to $20; www.koolcollar4dogs.com). 

The Chill Collar is a similar product; it's filled with a gel, and you freeze the whole thing before use ($39.95; www.inthecompanyofdogs.com). 

Around the body: Swamp coolers and similar products wrap around a dog's midsection for a whole-body cooldown. The Ruffwear version of a swamp cooler uses evaporative cooling to draw out body heat. Soak the vestlike product in cold water and wring it out before putting it on your dog. You can pour more water directly on the vest while your dog is wearing it, too. ($59.95; www.ruffwear.com

My dog, Ginger, spent her summers in her Kool Koat, which is made of shammy material that Velcros around the middle and works like a swamp cooler. I got one size bigger than she needed so that it draped down her back end; she enjoyed few things more having her butt and belly cool in the summer. ($20 to $85; www.pettemp.com

Lounging: Pads such as the K9 Cooling Mat and the Cool Bed Lounger (various styles and prices) provide a cool surface for your dog to recline. Another version is the Canine Cooler Therapeutic Pad, which is designed to ease inflammation and joint pain in dogs through a water-filled pad but could be used for heat relief, too. For instant shade, you can pop up the Portable Pet Shade, a pop-up tent that folds up to fit in a carrying case. (All at www.inthecompanyofdogs.com.)

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