Pedialyte Is Okay to Give to Dehydrated Dogs! And Other Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe During the Summer
With long sunny days and warm temperatures (at least in this hemisphere), summer is a tempting time to stay outdoors as much as possible with your pet. Fair weather months offer many benefits to pets and pet parents alike, including opportunities for weight loss and new exercise routines.
But with increased temperatures comes an increased risk of sun- and heat-related sickness. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, cramps, syncope, and even stroke can result from overexposure to the sun and environmental heat. Whether you're taking your exercise routine outside or simply enjoying a nice day with your four-legged friend, it's important to take extra precautions when the temperatures rise to ensure the safety of you and your pet.
Follow these tips for keeping your pet safe during the summer.
Water, Water Everywhere
No matter the season, provide your pet with lots of fresh, cool water to keep him healthy and alert. It isn’t enough to give your dog a bowl of water after a walk or run outside: he needs to have constant access to water throughout the day to remain adequately hydrated. Humans and dogs alike need to drink water throughout the day to prepare for physical activity. And if you walk, run, or play outside, bring enough water for you and your dog for the duration of the activity; failing to consume enough water can result in dehydration.
Dehydration involves an excessive loss not just of water but also of electrolytes. Common symptoms of dehydration include thirst, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, and constipation. While your pup can’t complain to you about his headache, or let you know that he feels dizzy, tired, or nauseous, there are a couple of ways to tell if your pet is dehydrated. Observe your dog frequently as you walk or play outside. If his tongue lolls out of his mouth much farther than usual, or his eyes seem to be receding into their sockets, then your dog is dehydrated or becoming dehydrated. Check your dog’s gums and saliva. Are his gums dry and sticky? Is his saliva thin and stringy? These physical characteristics also indicate dehydration. Finally, tent your dog’s skin: pinch the skin between his shoulder blades into a small tent shape; if the skin remains tented for more than five seconds, then your dog is dehydrated.
If your pet does become dehydrated, the first step is to get out of the sun and heat. (If you’re a long way from home, find a cool shady spot where your pet can rest and drink water. If you have your phone with you, try calling a friend or family member for a ride home.) Then begin to restore your pet’s lost fluids by offering him cool (not cold) water. Make sure that he does not drink too quickly, as doing so can cause him to vomit. If your pet is reluctant to drink water, try offering him an ice cube—most dogs will lick ice cubes even if they don’t want to drink water. It is also safe to give your dog small doses of Pedialyte to restore lost fluids and electrolytes (usually your vet will administer 2 to 4 cc of Pedialyte per pound of your dog’s body weight each hour—roughly 2 tablespoons per 10 pounds of body weight), but try not to do so without first consulting your veterinarian. For severe dehydration, take your dog to your veterinarian or emergency vet clinic.
Exercise Early (or Late)
If you’re going to exercise outside with your pet, avoid doing so when the sun is highest in the sky and bears true south. Play it safe and stay out of the sun between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST. Exercising during this time range could harm you and your pet.
Case in point. My dogs Fiona and Penny are great workout partners and love to accompany me on my daily runs—I can’t even look at my sneakers without them running to the front door and staring intensely at their leashes. Nine times out of ten, I’ll take them with me, not only because they’re fun to have along, but also because I live in an apartment without a fenced backyard, so I feel they need the extra exercise to stay healthy and happy. I don’t worry as much about taking them with me during the fall or spring, when cooler temperatures prevent us from overheating; but the humid summer months here in Buffalo make exercising outdoors with my dogs a challenging decision.
German Shepherd mixes, Fiona and Penny have thick, dark fur that attracts and holds heat. I know how quickly I become hot, tired, and dehydrated when exercising outdoors in the summer in shorts and a tank top—imagine wearing a fur coat 24/7! I made the mistake of taking them out hot Saturday afternoon. We ran about three-quarters of a mile when, to my dismay, Fiona started lagging behind, her tongue hanging halfway down her chest. She slowed, then stopped, then sat down on the grass and stared at me, panting and drooling profusely. She obviously couldn’t handle the heat and I felt terrible for bringing her out with me.
It’s almost impossible for me to run without my dogs. I enjoy the company, it’s true, but I also know they’re going crazy when I put my running shoes on and walk out the door alone. So I’ve started running either early in the morning or late in the evening, when the sun—and thus the temperature—are lower. Sure, I have to wake up thirty to sixty minutes earlier than usual, but I feel better knowing—and seeing—that I’m protecting my dogs (and myself) from heat exhaustion and other sun- and heat-related illnesses.
Play at Home
If you have some extra room in your home or a spacious fenced-in backyard, consider staying home to play with your pet and get some exercise while enjoying a nice day. You can still run, walk, and do interval training with your pet at home.
If you have a large yard, try sprinting to one end of the yard, then walking back to the starting point. Encourage your dog to follow either on- or off-leash; training in your backyard is also a great opportunity for you to practice your dog’s leash skills, as well as obedience training and the heel command. Repeat these “sprintervals” for twenty to thirty minutes. To incorporate hill training, use your staircase; walk up and down with your dog for ten to twenty minutes at a moderate pace.
Other options for playing at home include fetch and chase. To teach your dog to play fetch, choose a toy that will get his attention, like a favorite ball. Throw the toy only a few feet at first; when your dog picks the toy up, call him back to you using a command like “Bring it back” and praising him as he approaches you with the toy. Ask him to “Release” or “Drop” the toy when he reaches you and offer more praise—small treats are great for teaching your dog new games and tricks. As your dog becomes more comfortable with this game, discontinue using the treats and begin throwing the toy farther.
Chase is simple: run away from your dog and encourage him to catch you. To teach your dog this game, use a toy to get your dog’s attention. Show your dog that you want to play by bending forward at the waist and extend your arms downward—have you ever seen your dog do this when he wants to play with another pup? Show him the toy, and then tell him to “Come get it!” Run away from your dog; he should chase after you and his toy. Stop running when your dog comes within a couple feet of you—he might bite you playfully on the leg if he actually catches you! Be sure to offer lots of praise and give the toy as a reward; your pup will become frustrated if chases you but doesn’t get the toy.
If he doesn’t want to play chase, try playing fetch or doing nose work with your dog, but don’t encourage him to run from you because this could indicate to him that you like to chase him.
Stay Up-to-Date on Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Prevention
Okay, this tip may seem out-of-place on this list, but maintaining a flea, tick, and heartworm prevention regimen is an important part of keeping your pet healthy during the summer.
Many pet parents already refill their pets’ heartworm medication and flea prevention medication on a regular basis through their veterinarians’ office, yet they may overlook the threat that ticks can pose to both people and their pets. Ticks, which are generally most active from April to October in the U.S., transmit Lyme disease which can affect the skin, nervous system, heart, and joints.
Ticks present a double-bind for those who like to experience the great outdoors in summertime because they’re active at pretty much all times of the day. Ticks that thrive in cooler temperatures are more active during the early mornings and late evenings of summer, and seek out shady, grassy areas when temperatures are hottest in the afternoons; others just love the heat and humidity. You can see how ticks become a problem for outdoor enthusiasts and their pets—if you are outside in the early morning or late evening, you’re susceptible to ticks; if you take a hike through the shady forest on a hot afternoon, you’re susceptible to ticks.
It’s easy for ticks to use your dog as a host: they can jump from the ground or tall stands of grass to burrow into your dog’s fur, or attach to your dog’s feet between his pads unnoticed. In turn, your dog can carry ticks into your car and home, putting you and your family at risk. So if you like to exercise outdoors, or if you take your pet on frequent summer camping trips like I do, use a flea prevention medication that also protects against ticks (I like K9 Advantix II because it's waterproof) and inspect your dog and yourself frequently and thoroughly for ticks. Check with your county’s health department for the months during which ticks are most active in your area and ask your veterinarian about starting a tick prevention regimen for your pet.
Enjoy a Safe Summer!
The most important all-seasons tip for pet parents is to use common sense. Pay close attention to your dog's behavior, noting how he reacts to certain activities, people, dogs, and places. It can be tricky to determine if your dog is uncomfortable or in pain—often he'll continue doing an activity, such as running, to please you even if he's too tired or hot. Following these four simple tips goes a long way in making sure that you and your pet enjoy a safe, fun, active summer.