It's summertime, and the livin' is easy. But often hot! How can we help keep our canine companions cool?
People often wonder if clipping their dog's hair very short for summer is a good idea. In reality, a dog's fur coat, when properly cared for and kept free of mats and tangles, offers insulation from heat, sun, and insect bites. However, double-coated breeds, such as German Shepherds, Husky's, and Golden Retrievers, can run into trouble if their dense undercoat is not brushed out. Breeds with thick coats like these shed much of their undercoat in the spring or early summer. Regular brushing and combing will help release the shedding hair from the longer guard hairs. If the loose coat remains trapped, it can prevent the dog from cooling itself properly. Long pinned slicker brushes such as the Big G or Big K are excellent tools for removing shedding fur. Follow up with a good comb like the Aaronco Honeycomb. This will show you any thick spots the brush missed.
In our grooming studio, we offer pet owners an option of what we call a "Cape Cod Cut." This trim entails clipping the dog's fur very short from their armpits to their groin area. The pet looks perfectly normal unless they roll over, revealing a close-cropped underbelly. Some pets seem to enjoy pressing their shorn tummies on a cool floor or cooling mat during hot days, and many pet owners report that their dog seems more comfortable when we execute this trim.
Unlike humans, who cool themselves by sweating, a dog's primary cooling method is by panting. Cool air passes over the moist tissue of a dog's nose and mouth, and the evaporation helps them thermoregulate. For this reason, your pet must have access to air that is cooler than their body temperature (around 102 F) to breathe to prevent it from overheating. Short muzzled dogs have more difficulty cooling themselves than long muzzled breeds do, so take particular care with your Pugs, Bulldogs, and the like. Many dogs enjoy lying near where a fan is blowing; the air movement helps make them more comfortable on warm days.
During hot weather, exercise your dog during the coolest part of the day, and if you typically walk on pavement, check the temperature of the surface with your hand to make sure it's not too hot for paws to walk on. If your pet seems hot after your exercise session, resist the urge to give it icy cold water. The extreme temperature difference may cause your dog to vomit. Dogs need free access to cool but not freezing water.
If your dog is panting and drooling excessively, has bright red mucus membranes, seems confused, or vomits, it may have heat exhaustion. Contact your veterinarian immediately for assistance.
You can help keep your pet safe and comfortable during the dog days of summer by ensuring it always has access to a cool, shady place to rest, plenty of water, limited exercising during the hottest hours of the day, and proper coat care.