Dangerously high temperatures have been recorded across the U.S. throughout much of the summer, with some areas seeing temperatures nearing or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Millions of Americans sought comfort by staying in the shade or in air-conditioned homes and offices, and cooled themselves in fountains, at beaches or cooling centers.
As people are finding unique ways to keep themselves cool, a spike in Google searches showed people are also wondering how to keep their dogs cool in the summer.
The VERIFY team went to experts to find out whether some claims about dogs in the heat are true.
- The Kennel Club, the largest organization in the U.K. devoted to dog health, welfare and training
- Battersea, a non-profit animal organization based in the U.K.
- American Kennel Club, the largest U.S. dog registry
- American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation
- Ed Faulkner, DVM, at Weddington Animal Hospital in Weddington, North Carolina
- Shallowford Animal Hospital, based in Lewisville, North Carolina
- MetLife Pet Insurance
WHAT WE FOUND
1. These are the signs to look for if your dog is suffering from heat or dehydration
A dog can overheat, and suffer from dehydration or heatstroke just like a human can. These are some early warning signs if your dog is suffering in the heat.
Signs of a dehydrated dog include sunken eyes and dry mouth, gums and nose. Poor skin elasticity is another dehydration symptom, which you can test by gently pulling up on the skin at the back of your dog’s neck, according to the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (AKCCHF).
Overheated dogs can suffer heat exhaustion, heat stroke or sudden death, AKCCHF warns. Panting, followed by disorientation and fast, noisy breathing could signal overheating. Other possible signs: Collapsing or convulsing, bright red or blue gums, vomiting and diarrhea.
According to the U.K.-based The Kennel Club, which is one of the largest dog welfare organizations in the world, 1 in 7 dogs taken to the vet for heat stroke dies, but 98% of those treated early survive.
- Heavy panting
- Confusion or loss of coordination
- Drooling or foaming at the mouth
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Shaking or weakness
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.
2. Giving dogs ice cubes is a useful way to keep them cool on hot days
A copypasta meme recently circulated across Facebook, claiming to have come from a veterinarian that experienced the loss of a dog to heat stroke. Copypasta is internet slang for a block of text that gets copied and pasted repeatedly.
The meme said, “Please do not give your dogs ice cubes or other frozen items in the heat to cool them down! Ice cubes do not cool dogs down!”
The post claims giving dogs ice cubes causes them to heat up because it tricks the brain into thinking they are cold. But The Kennel Club says that is not true.
Giving dogs ice cubes, cold water or frozen treats is a useful way to help dogs stay cool on hot days, The Kennel Club says.
American Kennel Club (AKC), which is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the U.S., says it’s best to fill ice cube trays halfway and then place another treat inside.
“Once frozen, place a small treat like a blueberry or piece of freeze-dried liver in the middle of the cube then fill the rest of the tray with the remaining liquid. Once the entire cube is frozen, there will be a tasty surprise waiting inside when your dog licks or chomps the ice,” AKC says.
Ice cubes could pose a choking risk to some dogs, MetLife Pet Insurance company says, so it’s best to supervise your dog as they eat.
3. Hot pavement can injure your dog’s feet
Ed Faulkner, DVM, a general practitioner with Weddington Animal Hospital in North Carolina, told VERIFY it’s important for pet owners to pay attention to the heat index when preparing to take their dog for a walk.
“The first thing I always recommend doing is pay attention to the weather that's coming up. If they're talking tomorrow, it's going to be 95 degrees, don't have your dog out in the middle of the day. It's just like you would do for yourself – early morning activity when it's still in the 70s for their walk and then late evening activity once it cools off a little bit,” Faulkner said.
“On a day where it's 100 degrees heat index, that pavement can hit 160-170 degrees and ulcerate their pads and create more heat exhaustion, heat stroke issues as well. So keep it real early in the morning and really late in the evening,” he said.
Shallowford Animal Hospital, based in Lewisville, North Carolina, says “remember that if asphalt and cement can get hot enough to cook an egg during the summer or if it feels way too hot for you to leave your hands comfortably on the ground for at least 10 seconds, it can result in nasty burns on your dog’s paw pads. This is especially true if you have a new puppy with tender, young paws.”
Here are some tips to protect puppy paws:
- Walk your dog when it’s cool. It also helps toughen your dog’s paws.
- Stay on the grass
- Moisturize your dog’s paws to prevent injuries like cuts, cracking or peeling with paw wax
- Invest in some dog shoes, peel and stick paw pads or dog socks to protect against potential burns and injury
4. Dogs sweat through their paws, but it’s not the primary way they keep cool
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs have two types of sweat glands: the merocrine glands and apocrine glands. The merocrine glands function similarly to human sweat glands and are located in the paw pads. The apocrine glands are located across the body and their main purpose is to release pheromones.
Most dogs are covered in fur, so if their main sweat glands were located on their bodies, the sweat would fail to evaporate – and cooling takes place when sweat evaporates. That’s why it is much more efficient for dogs to have sweat glands in their paw pads, where there is little fur,” the AKC says.
The primary way a dog controls their temperatures, though, is not through their sweaty paws. It’s through panting. When dogs pant, moisture evaporates from their tongues, nasal passages, and the lining of their lungs, cooling them as air passes over the moist tissue.
“Dogs are really inefficient at sweating, it's not their thing to cool off,” Faulkner told VERIFY. “When you [a person] walk outside, you start sweating immediately, they start panting. They cool off through that respiratory operation.”