Thirteen years ago, I had The Dog. Not just any dog, but the dog that was with me always. He was a gorgeous fox-red Labrador, aptly named “Rusty.” He was the best dog. He could be anywhere and wouldn’t steal or knock people over or do anything else excessively obnoxious.
However, Rusty had one little problem. In Labradors, a condition called Exercise Induced Collapse can cause them to lose all muscle function when they get overly excited, and Rusty had it. The disease is genetic, but not all (or even most) Labs are affected. So not only did I have to protect him from normal hot weather activities, but I had to make sure he didn’t collapse somewhere I couldn’t keep him cool. I learned a few tips and tricks along the way for keeping dogs safe in hot weather.
Tip #1: Always Carry Water
It seems pretty obvious, but water is the most important tool to keep your dog safe. If you hike, make sure to offer water every fifteen to twenty minutes in hot weather. Think about how often you take a swig from a water bottle, and offer your pet water at least as frequently. Travel water bowls make this chore easier.
If you camp or attend a barbecue, set out a water bowl. If your dog overheats, dumping cool water on him will help. You don’t need to have cold water in addition to a cooler–your dog will happily drink ice water straight from your cooler.
If you run out of water, you leave–simple as that. You can’t keep yourself or your dog safe without water, so don’t try.
Tip #2: Always Carry Shade
Water is obvious. Shade? Not so much. With Rusty, I learned that water is good, but he would collapse in full sun. If he collapsed in full sun–even in the water–he might dangerously overheat. So, in keeping him safe, I had to carry some sort of shade.
You can carry shade in two ways. Carry a small pop-up tent, like the ones made for kids. You can put the tent over your dog, or in your dog’s area at the beach.
If you aren’t able to carry a small tent, bring a way to carry your dog to shade. Going hiking with your mastiff? Bring a cart that you can use to carry him. Even a 50 pound dog is heavy when they go completely limp. Any dog over 100 pounds will prove nearly impossible to carry.
Tip #3: Rubbing Alcohol
If your dog does overheat, you can use rubbing alcohol like sweat. It evaporates quickly, and will cool your dog in the same way that sweat cools humans. (I still don’t believe that I feel cooler when I’m sweating, but science says I do!) It can be used on the stomach, paw pads, and armpits, or anywhere the fur is light, to instantly cool your dog.
This is super important if your dog does collapse. You want to cool her quickly, and if you don’t have enough water to make it back to the car safely, rubbing alcohol could give her the boost she needs.
Tip #4: Solar Blankets
Whenever you travel with your dogs, you risk needing to leave them in a hot car. Keeping dogs safe in cars is a heavily-debated topic, but your car can be set up as the perfect cooling station. It carries all your supplies, and you can close it up and turn on the air in a pinch.
Use a solar blanket as a shade over any part of your car that sun is shining directly. They redirect both the sun’s rays and the heat away from your vehicle. This keeps any occupants–like your dogs–cooler, without having to turn on the car and run the air. They also keep you warm in a snow emergency, so can stay in your car’s emergency kit. People who show or work their dogs often use this trick at events, since it’s risky to leave your car running with the air conditioning on. (Who knows if your car will get stolen, or if you’ll know if it turns off and overheats!)
Tip #5: Leave Them Home
I know no one ever wants to do this, but if you can’t ensure your pet’s safety, leave her home. It’s not worth the risk. For me, it was so hard to leave Rusty home when I knew he couldn’t handle the weather. I loved doing stuff with him. But if I knew he would collapse somewhere that I couldn’t keep him safe, I just couldn’t take him. What if he collapsed in the water? What if he collapsed in the middle of a sunny field?
I know they hate staying at home and give you those eyes. But for their own good, when it’s too hot, let them stay home in front of the fan. Keeping dogs safe means saying no when you know your pet might get hurt.
While You’re Out & About…
Don’t forget to prevent fleas and ticks!
Do you have any other tips or tricks for keeping dogs safe in hot weather? Share in the comments!