The remarkable bond between humans and dogs has persisted for more than 10,000 years, and it is probably why our canine companions are treated more like family members than pets.
Because many of our dogs live with us, act like us, and sometimes even look like us, it’s easy to forget they’re a different species with a completely different set of biological needs — especially when it comes to surviving hot weather.
Working as an emergency and critical care vet for the past 30 years, Jerry Klein, doctor of veterinary medicine and chief veterinary officer for the American Kennel Club, says summer is the busiest season for dog injuries and illnesses. And unfortunately, in most of the cases that he sees — like dehydration, heat stroke, and car accidents — dogs aren’t the ones at fault.
“The vast majority of summer accidents don’t happen when dogs are left on their own,” he says. “Dogs are such incredible creatures who try to please us and we try to include in our everyday lives. With that, we can lose perspective and take dogs with us wherever we go, whether they want to or not.”
Help your dog beat the heat with these eight tips from veterinary experts on how to keep your pet safe:
1. Never Leave Your Dog Alone in a Hot Car
This tip is No. 1 for a reason. It seems like common sense, but every year emergency crews break into blistering hot vehicles that owners have left dogs in unattended. If you’re thinking, “I’ll be right back, they’ll be fine right?” or “What if I leave the window open?” or “How about the air conditioning?” — think again. Pet experts everywhere will answer the same: No, no, and no.
“The worst possible situation is for kids or dogs to be left alone in an enclosed car,” says Dr. Klein. “Even with the windows open, a car quickly becomes like an oven.”
Within an hour, the temperature of car seats alone can hit 123 degrees F, according to a study published in May 2018 in the journal Temperature. Last year, 52 children died of heatstroke in vehicles — the highest number of deaths in 20 years, according to the National Safety Council.
Klein says dogs succumb to heatstroke much faster than humans, and irreversible damage can happen within minutes.
If you see a pet alone in a parked car, the Humane Society of the United States says to take down the car’s license plate and model, notify a business or security guard nearby, or call your local nonemergency police line.
2. If It’s Too Hot Outside, Your Dog Is Happier Inside
On a scorching day, our first instinct is to slap on a swimsuit and get our bronze (or burn) on. But what may be a hot yet tolerable day for you, can be intolerable for your furry friend.
Dogs lower their body temperature through a process called thermoregulation. They achieve this by panting, which expels hot air from the body and causes moisture in the mouth to evaporate and cool, according to the Humane Society of the United States. These protective mechanisms are much less effective in the heat and humidity, especially, Klein says, for brachycephalic dogs — those smush-faced dogs we all know and love, like pugs and French bulldogs.
Klein’s best advice is to leave your dog at home (with the air conditioning on, if your house gets hot), and limit walks to early morning or dusk when the sun is less harsh.
3. Make Sure Your Dog Always Has Access to Fresh Water
It’s a basic rule of survival for every creature: Stay hydrated. Whether indoors or outdoors, your dog should always have access to a bowl of clean, fresh water. Even if you’re just out for a short walk, Klein says to always bring a dog water bottle or a portable dog bowl to fill up in case your pup gets thirsty. Lastly, it’s important to make sure the water is at a drinkable temperature — a bowl of water that’s been sitting in the sun all day will not be tempting for a dog to drink.