When someone refers to the Dog Days of Summer, they are actually referencing the hottest time of the year, typically July 3-August 11. The phrase has its origins from the Greeks and Romans when the Sirius “Dog Star” appeared to rise before the sun in late July.

Sirius, the Dog Star, is part of the constellation Canis Majoris -the Greater Dog. Sirius is the brightest star in the sky. How appropriate for us dog lovers who believe the sun and stars rise and fall on our beloved canine companions!

For pet owners and pet sitters, it’s also a time of year when we must seek creative ways to keep our pets safely entertained and exercised during the hot summer months. As pets still need exercise, especially the young and agile breeds, a daily walk becomes problematic if you live in high heat country (pretty much most of the U.S.) Any dog can suffer heatstroke within minutes.  Don a fur coat and go for a walk outside to grasp how bad it is for them.

As a result, short-nosed and overweight dogs overheat quicker. Brachycephalic breeds with their flat faces and short skulls such as Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, Boxers, Pugs, Pekinese, Lhasa Apso, Boston Terriers, Brussels Griffon, Cavalier King Charles, and Bull Mastiffs. Their airways are already compromised by a reduced ability to breathe which make them highly susceptible to heat exhaustion and stroke. As all dogs regulate their body heat by panting, excessive hot and humid conditions make it much harder for these unique breeds, if not a strain on any dog while spending time outdoors in the sun.

If you can’t take Fido for a walk at the crack of dawn or well past sunset, consider these cool-down options instead:

(1). If you have access to a pool, teach your dog to swim! Some breeds are not naturally amphibious or may be reluctant without proper water introduction, so fill a small, plastic play pool with cool water instead.

(2). Serve tasty cool-down treats.  Fill an ice-cube tray with low-salt chicken broth or stuff a Kong with peanut butter or cream cheese and freeze before serving. Another fun summer recipe: Blend one ripe banana, 4 ounces of plain yogurt, 1 TB creamy peanut butter and freeze in containers to serve as a healthy doggie “ice cream”. Add sliced apples, carrots or chopped chicken for extra flavor!

(3). Groom your dogs, remove matts and tangles and consider a minor summer trim. Their coats protect them in both winter and summer, so a shave-down is not recommended. A daytime bath in the tub can be a fun cool down moment also!

(4). Invest in entertainment toys and puzzles. A new toy can be fun for any dog!

(5). Cooling dog beds and mats are all the rage this time of year. These special beds include a gel-activated insert to help keep Fido chill.

(6). If you are a pet sitter, consider offering a day of play inside your home, with other fun guests you are caring for. Find indoor games to keep your guests busy and active. Example: put treats in each cup at the bottom of a muffin tin. Place tennis balls on top. Dogs must use their noses to move the ball away to get at the hidden treat.

(7). Take them with you to dog-friendly establishments.  A field trip to Home Depot can be a fun break in routine for them, provided they have good manners in public and around other dogs and people.

(8). Apply Musher’s Secret Paw Protection to their pads as a salve for raw or burned pads (or for snow dogs in the winter as a protective layer prior to your walk on cold turf).

(9). Light or pink-skinned dogs will benefit by a little pet sunscreen when outdoors. Extra caution is required in this regard, as not all sunscreen products work for dogs. For further information on sunscreen products for dogs, please read this great article: https://www.vetinfo.com/what-is-the-best-dog-sunscreen.html

(10). Install sunshades in your car if you will be driving around town or taking a road trip with your dogs during the summer.

Every pet sitter and dog owner should know the signs of heatstroke:

  • Mental “dullness”
  • Red gums
  • Excessive panting
  • Drooling
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Unable or unwilling to move
  • Uncoordinated movement
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Collapsing or loss of consciousness

If you suspect a dog is suffering from heatstroke, place him/her in a cool tub, shower or wrap a cool towel around the body, including the back of their head and neck. Do not use ice-cold water and keep their head elevated (while in the tub or shower). If you can take their temperature, normal body heat for a dog is 99-101. If their temperature is at 103 or above, call your vet. Temperatures between 106-107 degrees are life threatening.

The best way to avoid heatstroke is to eliminate strenuous exercise during peak hours, do not leave dogs outside during the day and (never) leave them in a car. A car can become an oven quickly.  Should you encounter a dog in a car, call local authorities and if you can, wait for their arrival.

Stay safe and be cool this summer!


Your Pet Pro Team @ AoPP