Once summer rolls around, dog owners usually want to take full advantage of the warm weather and let their pets soak up the sun. But too much sun for your furry friend can have the same negative effects as it has on you.
Tom Yenish, who is the owner of Pet Expo and The Paw in Mankato, said every dog is going to handle the heat a little differently.
“Some dogs can tolerate heat better than other dogs and other breeds,” he said. “There’s not a perfect answer.”
Regardless, pet owners should be aware of some signs that their dog is overheated.
“Never leave a dog out(side) that doesn’t have an opportunity for shade all of the time,” said Yenish. “Dogs or cats cannot take heat like they can the cold. In the cold, they can curl up in a ball. They can’t take heat.”
With heat in mind, Yenish said pets should never be left unattended in a vehicle. Even if the window is cracked, temperatures can be deadly.
“A dog in the car is like a child. It can heat up in a car to 140 degrees,” he said.
Dogs should also have access to plenty of water.
“When it’s warm, 75 degrees and above, I would try and keep fresh water for them 100 percent of the time,” Yenish said.
Getting your dog groomed is also a key component in keeping your pet cool this summer.
Jillian Sandstrom, a grooming salon manager at Petco in Mankato, said regular brushing once a week or every other day is recommend for long-haired dogs during the summer months.
“It keeps their coats free of dead undercoat, and it helps them keep cool,” she said.
Sandstrom said there are a few misconceptions that pet owners aren’t sure about.
“When dogs pant, they aren’t actually overheating, they are just sweating,” said Sandstrom. “That is just how they cool off.”
Another is that people think they need to shave their dog’s coat, especially when it comes to golden retrievers and Labradors.
“You don’t want to shave a dog because you think it’s hot,” she said. “Once you shave the coat, you are taking away their air conditioning. They actually get more overheated.”
Sandstrom said the only time you want to shave a dog is when its coat is severely matted, because their blood circulation gets cut off and the pet can’t breathe.
“Matting is caused by not doing the at-home brushing,” she said. “Once a mat gets wet, it gets tighter, and it gets really hard to brush out.”
Regular brushing and bathing or bringing the dog to a professional pet groomer for a doggy wash will help separate the dog’s coat.
There are several brushes that pet owners can use, including a slicker brush (good for knots and tangles), an undercoat rake (pulls out the dead undercoat), and a comb (for brushing behind the ears).
Another option, which Sandstrom said is a good investment, is the FURminator deShedding Tool.
“It helps a lot with the double-coated dogs, like your huskies, your German shepherds,” she said. “The FURminator is a great thing to have at home. It works amazing.”
The tool retails for about $50, but Sandstrom said its stainless steel teeth don’t have to be replaced like knock-off brands, so it lasts longer.
She recommended that dogs be bathed every couple of weeks, depending on their activity, and professionally groomed about every six to eight weeks.
“Over-bathing your dog can lead to dry skin, itching and scratching,” she said. “You don’t want to bathe them too much, because then you are taking out a lot of their natural oils.”
When it comes to exercising your dog during the summer, both Yenish and Sandstrom offered a few tips for pet owners.
Sandstrom said people shouldn’t avoid walking their dog.
“Dogs need to walk every day for mental healthiness,” she said. But she recommended applying a paw balm on the dog’s paws to prevent cracking, as it can be dangerous for dogs to walk when it’s really hot.
Yenish also suggested exercising dogs in the evening or the morning when the temperatures are cooler.
And, he added, “A chained-up dog in the summertime without shade is not a good thing, of course.”