11 Things Experts Want You To Know Before You Take Your Dog Into The Sun

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Before heading outside to walk, hit up the park, or hang out at the beach, you'll want to plan ahead in order to protect your dog from the sun. This can include shielding them with the likes of dog-safe sunscreens, hats, and even goggles. But it also means making sure they don't get too hot, dehydrated, or tired.

Because, as we all know, some dogs will be so excited to be outdoors that they won't limit themselves, Alex Osorio, managing veterinary technician of Fetch My Vet, tells Bustle. They'll run, they'll leap, and before you know it they'll be overheated. So the safest thing to do is keep your dog calm and cool during the hottest hours of the day, and save exercise for once the sun goes down.

Of course, they will need to go out, but "owners should limit the amount of time that their pet(s) are outside if the temperatures are extremely hot," Osorio says. Since timing can vary depending on the temperature, humidity level, and breed of your dog, check with your vet to find out how long is too long to be outside.

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the sun with your dog, while also keeping them safe. Here are a few things to keep in mind, according to experts, especially during the summer.


You May Not Want To Shave Them

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While you may be tempted to shave or cut off your dog's hair during the summer, doing so can actually put them at risk for sunburn. "Long fur acts as a protective barrier," Jonathan Rose, managing director of Aurora Pets, tells Bustle. "So instead you can use a brush to lighten the under fur layers and provide a lighter coat." The right way to groom them for summer can depend on your dog's breed, though, so ask your vet for advice.


They Can Get Sunburned

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If you're going to be outside you'll want to protect your dog's skin, especially if they have short hair or lighter skin, with some sunscreen. "But it is extremely important to use the right cream that doesn't contain zinc oxide," Rose says. "Most [sunscreens] for human babies are safe for dogs as they do not contain this ingredient that is toxic for pets." You can also buy a safe sunscreen at a pet store, or ask your vet for suggestions.


Never Leave Them In The Car

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It's never safe to leave your dog in the car on a hot (or even slightly warm) day. "On a day that is over 80 degrees, it could reach over 100 degrees inside a vehicle within minutes," Dr. Kurt Venator, chief veterinary officer for Purina, tells Bustle.

And this is true even if you plan to crack the windows. As Dr. Venator says, "Your pet will still get overheated and could become ill or worse. On very hot days, leave your pet at home or only go places where he or she is welcome."


They'll Need Plenty Of Water

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No matter where you are or what you're doing, make sure your dog has access to plenty of water. "Heavy breathing and sweating increase a dog’s need for water, especially if [they are] playing or walking in the sun," Aimee Gilbreath, executive director of Michelson Found Animals, tells Bustle. "In general, dogs should be drinking one ounce of water for each pound of body weight every day and more when they’re active."

So make sure they have water inside as well as outside, and take some with you whenever you leave the house. If you're walking or traveling, Gilbreath recommends bringing a portable water bowl.


Check The Sidewalk

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"Before heading outside for a walk or play time with your pet, be sure to touch the pavement with your hand to feel its temperature," Dr. Venator says. "If it feels way too hot to touch, then it’s way too hot for your pet’s paw pads."

If you need to go out, try to stick to grassy areas, Dr. Venator says, or get your dog little booties to protect their paws.


Don't Overdo It

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While your dog needs exercise, you won't want to bring them outside for long periods of time in the middle of the day. And you definitely won't want to do anything too exhausting, such as going for a jog.

Instead, "try to take walks during cooler parts of the day like early morning or late evening," Dr. Venator says. "And be sure to bring water for both of you."


Get Flea & Tick Protection

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"Flea and tick prevention is always a must for dogs, but it’s especially important during the summer when these parasites are more prevalent," Gilbreath says. Just make sure you check with your vet before starting any kind of new treatment.


Give Them Shade

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Even though it may seem nice to let them relax in the fresh air, "don't leave your pet outside for long periods of time in hot weather, especially in the direct sun," Dr. Venator says. "If he or she must be outside, make sure there is plenty of access to shade, preferably from trees, and lots of fresh, cool water."


Dog Hats Exist

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Just like people, a dog's eyes need to be protected from the sun. So if you've always dreamed of seeing your dog in a cute hat, now's your chance.

"There are eye protection options available that are designed specifically for dogs, such as hats, visors, and goggles," Dr. Whitney Miller, director of veterinary medicine at Petco, tells Bustle. "These should definitely be considered whenever a dog will have high exposure to direct sunlight or reflective sun exposure, like during water activities."


Watch For Signs Of Overheating

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Whenever you're outside — even if it's later in the day — you'll always want to watch your dog for signs they're getting too hot. As Dr. Venator says, "While it is hard to tell when your pet does not feel well or may be getting overheated, keep an eye out for possible heatstroke in your pet and see a vet immediately."

Symptoms may include heavy drooling or panting, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, weakness, and dark or red gums or tongue.


Cool Them Off

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If you think your dog is overheating, you should take them to the vet ASAP. But for your average sunny days, you can always pop them into a cool bath, turn on a sprinkler, or spray them with a hose to help them cool down. (Just make sure you're watching them.)

As for Rose, he says he douses his own dogs with tepid water under their armpits, as well as around their necks, to help them cool off after being in the sun.

Dogs love to play outside, and many enjoy lounging in the sun. But you'll want to do everything you can to keep them safe and cool, especially when it's hot and humid.

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