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Keeping your dog cool

Unlike humans, dogs are unable to efficiently cool themselves.  In part, this inability is due to their lack of sweat glands.  The best ways for dogs to cool off naturally is to pant, dig a cool hole, hang out in the shade, or go for a swim.  There are a number of ways that you can help your furry friend stay safe in the warmer weather, which are discussed below.

Heat Acclimation
Veterinarians often see more cases of heat stroke during the first moderately warm days of summer than they do when temperatures reach their peak for the season.  Why?  Pet owners often become so excited at the prospect of warming weather that they tend to overdo it with their pets, such as by going on longer-than-average walks or runs.  When the temperature changes, it is important to gradually acclimate your dog to the warmer temps.

Cooling Vest
If your dog is prone to overheating, or if you plan to go for a long walk on a warm day, a cooling vest may be appropriate.  A cooling vest is composed of cooling fabric (typically a material where the cooling properties are activated by water) that wraps around the dog’s back, chest, and belly.  The cooling vest helps keep the dog’s core at a comfortable temperature, reducing the amount of work required by the dog to regulate its body temperature.

Portable Water Bowl
Always carry water when walking on a hot day as this is one of the most efficient and natural ways to keeping your dog cool.  Look for a portable bottle or bowl that is easy to carry that your dog is comfortable drinking from.  Use chicken stock or powdered drink mix (always ensure the mix is not sugar-free, as some sugar substitutes are toxic to pets) in the water if your dog is reluctant to drink from an unfamiliar bowl.

Shaded Breaks
If spending time outdoors, such as when playing frisbee or going for a long walk, ensure that your dog takes plenty of breaks in a shaded area.  Many dogs become so excited to be outside exploring that they do not show signs or symptoms of overheating until it is too late.  Be proactive by enforcing breaks at regular intervals, such as every 15 – 20 minutes on especially sunny days.

Cooling Mat
If your dog likes to be outdoors in the garden but struggles to stay cool in the heat, keeping your dog cool with a cooling mat may be the solution.  Cooling mats are available in a number of styles.  Some cool a dog on contact while others require refrigeration or activation with water.  Regardless of type, a cooling mat can help a dog maintain a comfortable core temperature on hot days.

Limited Car Rides
Never leave your dog in the car, even with the windows left open.  If you absolutely must leave your dog in a car, it is best to leave the automobile running with the air conditioning on.  Even on seemingly cool days, dogs can succumb to heat stroke in as little as 10 minutes.

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