Shade hounds: How to help your dog stay cool this summer
Let’s put this in perspective: animals like you and me, we’ve got sweat glands for days. Mammals have not one but two types of secretory skin gland. The eccrine gland, the one tasked with heat regulation, is basically all over the place in our bodies—the palm alone boasting something like 370 sweat glands per square centimeter. That’s a lot of cooling power.
Dogs? Well, their “palms” are pretty much the only place they have sweat glands
. This fact, come late summer, may well provoke a question in a kind-hearted canine caretaker like yourself: How do I help my dog stay cool?
We posed this question to our friend Cheryl Meyers, DVM, a Seattle-based relief veterinarian and friend of Invisible Fence® Brand. Here’s her 5 principles of hydration for our differently thermoregulated companions.
- Calculate your dog’s water/weight ratio. Ok, so most days you don’t need a calculator. You “follow your nose” and manage to keep yourself and your dependents fed and nourished. No sweat. But on a sweltering day loaded down with activities, the scientific method might make the difference between a mild case of dehydration in your dog and a moderate-to-severe one. Luckily, calculating your pet’s water-to-weight ratio is easy.
Generally, dogs require 1 cup of water for every 10 pounds of body weight. But keep in mind that a hot, high-activity day could move the threshold of safety to twice that volume.
;If you’re staying in the shade with a 20 lb. shorthaired Dachshund, two or three bowls (4-5 c.) of water will get you through the day just fine. But for a day-hike with a 50 lb. Lab-Husky mix? Think about packing a collapsible bowl and a gallon of spring water before you hit the road. “The goal,” Dr. Meyers reminds us, “is constant access to fresh, cool water in and away from home. If traveling or hiking, bring an extra water bowl or collapsible container and offer it at least every 15-30 minutes.”
- Be a student of canine behavior. The second precaution you can take is to familiarize yourself with your dog’s self-cooling rituals. Dr. Meyers says to be mindful of a tipping point with panting: “Dogs have limited sweat glands, mostly in the pads of their feet, and so cool themselves on a hot day by panting. If panting is not enough to cool them, their body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels leading to heat stroke. If your dog starts to pant excessively, seems weak with sudden loss of energy, or is confused or stumbling, provide a cool location and cool water immediately. If signs don't improve within 5-10 minutes, seek veterinary attention.”
- Know her unique limitations. Inborn cooling strategies like panting and seeking shade can be further frustrated by genetic, temperamental, and other handicaps: “Risk factors include being a brachycephalic breed (short nosed dog such as pugs and bulldogs among others), being overweight, thickly furred dogs, dog with a history of respiratory disease or dogs that love constant, vigorous exercise.”
- Don’t wait for a sign. Still, relying too heavily on physical signs of dehydration can be a risk in and of itself: “Early signs of dehydration (less than 5% of body weight) are actually not evident by observing your dog,” says Dr. Meyers, “which is why it is important to try to prevent it in the first place. It isn't until a dog is more than 5% dehydrated that you may see signs such as tacky gums or the ‘skin tenting’ effect (where the loose skin over the shoulders is gently pulled up and released). At 7-10% dehydration, you may see the eyes sunken in. At greater than 10% shock can set in, which is a medical emergency.”
- Remember to play slow. So much for the precautions. What’s one “positive” thing I can for my dog this summer? “As temperatures warm up during the summer,” Dr. Meyers counsels, “remember it can take weeks for your dog to acclimate. Always provide plenty of water, good ventilation, access to shade, and gradual increases in activity/exercise.”
As with so much in life with our pets, there’s an art as well as a science to keeping our pets happy, healthy, and hydrated during the summer.
Special thanks to Dr. Cheryl Meyers.
Tags: Dog, Dogs, Health, Hydration, Summer, Tips, Water