In the spring and summer, a lot of clients come to me for shave downs. While the right haircut and regular grooming can certainly help keep pets more comfortable, in most cases, the length of his coat is really not contributing a whole lot to the problem.
Dogs don't regulate their temperature the same way people do. Humans sweat and the evaporation of that moisture helps us cool off. Dogs don't sweat, so exposing skin with a shorter clip doesn't help them stay cool the same way shedding layers of clothing does for us. Dogs lose heat by panting -- the evaporation of saliva does most of their cooling work. They also find cool spots to lay on, which helps lower their core temperature. This is the reason you can usually find your dog laying on the cool kitchen tiles or in the basement when the heat rolls in.
Outdoors, dogs like to dig themselves a hole and lay on the cool dirt. Laying down a "bed" of stone or ceramic tiles in the shade will give your dog a cleaner, less destructive, alternative to help him cool off.
Always provide fresh water for your pet. You can also give him ice cubes, either in the water to keep it cooler, or just as a fun, crunchy, and cooling snack.
You can also wet your pet down to get the cooling benefit of evaporation. Hosing him down, providing a kiddie pool of water, or taking him for a swim will help cool him down quickly. Just remember that water helps mats to form more quickly and tightly! If your pet has any length to his coat and is prone to either matting or packed undercoat, be vigilant about regular brush and comb-outs. It doesn't help to give your pet a quick cool-down with water if he spends the rest of his time overheating because he is matted!
Regular grooming to keep your pet's coat at an appropriate length and untangled will help to maximize his coat's insulating properties. Like double-paned windows do for your house, the layer of air trapped in a well-groomed coat helps stabilize the dog's temperature and protect him from excessive heat.
Hot pets might appreciate laying on a cool towel -- toss it in the fridge or the freezer for a few minutes and then lay it down for him to lay on or wrap it around his abdomen to pull heat away from his core.
Another big contributor to overheating in dogs is their weight. They gain weight around their middle, and the excess fat locks in body heat and heats up their organs. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight will do far more to keep him cool than any other tip or trick out there!
You'll probably notice that when things are really sweltering, your dog doesn't like to move around as much. That's because getting the blood pumping also heats up the body. So minimize exercise with your dog during the hottest parts of the day.
Like people, dogs can suffer heat stroke and it can kill them. If your pet is panting and salivating heavily, has pale or purple gums or tongue, or seems weak or confused, he may be having a heat stroke. It is very important to get his body temperature down to a safe level as quickly as possible and you should seek veterinary help immediately. Elderly, overweight, or breathing-impaired dogs are at highest risk for heat stroke.
Have fun out there in the sun but remember to respect the heat. Be alert, plan ahead, and minimize its negative effects on your pet!
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