Yes, Your Dog Can Sunburn — Here’s How to Keep Canines Safe in Summer

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Dog looking out car window on country road.
Christin Lola /

Everyone thinks they know how much heat their dog can withstand. Many misjudge. The results are often tragic.

Veterinarian Judy Morgan is on a mission to prevent these tragedies.

“Every year I treat dozens of pets suffering from heat exhaustion,” said Morgan, author of “From Needles to Natural: Learning Holistic Pet Healing” and other books. “Take the pet out of the car for any emergency stop if you can’t leave the air conditioner running.”

Sound extreme? On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 100 to 120 degrees in less than 10 minutes, according to PETA. On a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can soar to 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. Parking in the shade and cracking the windows open aren’t sufficient to keep your dog or other pet safe. And don’t think you can fan the dog. They sweat through their feet, so they aren’t cooled by fanning as humans are.

But there are ways to keep your dog safe in the heat, even when you’re with them in the car or don’t have an air-conditioned home. Consider these six expert ways to help your dog beat the heat.

1. Team up

Dog in sunglasses
Travelling.About /

Are you out and about with your dog and need to run an errand? Team up with another person or even a fellow dog owner. Have one person sit with the dog in the shade or sit in an air-conditioned car while one person runs the errand, recommends the editors of

2. Take your dog along

Little white dog in grocery shopping cart.
PongMoji /

Many stores allow animals to accompany their owners inside. A Washington, D.C.-area woman was charged with felony animal cruelty last year after she left her dog in a car when she went into a PetSmart, which welcomes pets. The dog died when temperatures inside the car exceeded 90 degrees, reported WTOP News in Fairfax, Virginia. If the store you want to visit has a no pets policy, take the dog home and go another time, recommend experts.

3. Prepare for an emergency

Dog in car passenger side.
Africa Studio /

What if you are traveling alone with your dog and must use a restroom? Veterinarian Morgan said she would take the dog into the air conditioning, even if there were signs prohibiting animals. Hesitant to do that? When you leave home with your dog take a bowl, water (both bottled and frozen), and a second set of car keys, recommends Beverly Cambron, of the International Boarding & Pet Services Association. If the need to use a restroom arises, park in the shade with the air conditioning running and soft music playing on the radio, and leave a note on the dash that says: “The air conditioner is on, my pet is listening to music, and I will return in two minutes.” Lock the car door. This can still be dangerous, but it’s a viable option if you MUST leave your pet very briefly.

4. Be aware of tender paws

Dog on cobblestone street.
Jaromir Chalabala /

It’s important to protect a dog’s feet from hot pavement, said Morgan. “I … see pets with burned feet from hot pavement,” she said, recommending you limit longer walks to early morning and late evenings. “Always walk pets in the grass if possible. Hot sand at the beach is another consideration. If your feet can’t take the heat, neither can theirs.”

5. Reconsider playtime

Dog playing with toy inside.
JaiMejia /

It’s a good idea to teach your pet to play indoor games of hide and seek, find the treats or gentle ball play during the summer. That way they can burn off some energy and you won’t worry about heat. Try to take your dog out primarily in the earning morning or late evening. “Pets most affected by the heat are the brachycephalic breeds (pushed in faces, short noses) and seniors. Be especially gentle with them,” said Morgan. “We also occasionally see water toxicity from pets ingesting too much water while playing with the hose or in the pool. This can cause fatal swelling of the brain.”

6. Special care for older pets

Old boxer dog on a chair
Holly Michele /

“If you live in a house with no air conditioning, consider putting your pet in the coolest part of the house and gating the area off,” said Lisa Lunghofer, executive director of The Grey Muzzle Organization, which is focused on elderly pets. “It could even be the basement, but make sure there are no other hazards there.”

7. Guard against sunburn

Two dogs under an umbrella
cham.shutter /

Just like humans, dogs can get sunburn. But don’t slather your sunscreen on the dog. Many contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, notes VetStreet. Your best bet? Keep your dog out of the sun especially between the prime burning hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Dogs do their best to make their human owners happy. Follow the above tips to keep your pet happy, especially during the dog days of summer.

What precautions do you take with your dog? Are there special considerations for the breed? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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