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Summer Care

Chihuahua Summer Care

Overview

If you live in an area that experiences seasonally hot temperatures or perhaps you even live where there's hot weather year round, you'll want to know about some important care elements that should be in place in the summer. In this section we are going to discuss:
  • Setting up your Chihuahua's indoor area to be safe and comfortable in the summer
  • Steps to take to help keep your Chihuahua cool
  • Changes to expect including how the heat affects the amount of food a dog eats and shedding
  • Steps to take to help keep your Chihuahua cool
  • Grooming elements to protect the coat, nose and paws of a Chihuahua during the summer and what can happen if these are not shielded from the summer heat and strong sun
  • Helpful rules to keep in mind regarding outdoor exercise 
  • Driving on hot days
  • Swimming
  • Eating changes
  • Summer insect issues
  • Hot weather items owners should have for their puppy or dog
Chihuahua in the hot summer
Gypsy, 8 years old
Photo courtesy of Gayle Becker
Your Chihuahua's Indoor Area

Since many owners are working to keep their house cool via A/C and fans in the summer, many don't think that any changes need to be made to a Chihuahua's inside area where he plays, rests and sleeps, however there are some elements to reassess. 

The best way to keep a Chihuahua from roaming the entire house, possibly making messes (both via going to the bathroom and chewing things) and to keep him safe is to have the puppy or dog in a gated off area or in a portable indoor canine playpen. However, during summer months you will want to evaluate where that area is. What previously could have been a great spot may now be less than ideal. 

The first thing you'll want to check is the amount of sunshine that is coming through windows. In the summer, the sun's rays hit the Earth at a different angle and of course, it shines for almost twice as long as cold, dark winter months. There may be some days of particularly cloudless skies that sun streams strong directly into a Chihuahua's area. When owners are not home during the work week and with the family often active on weekends, this may not be noticed. Take a moment on a day that you're home to see if there are blocks of time that the sun is shining right into your dog's area intensely enough that it would make him uncomfortable. If so, you can either move his area to a better location or keep certain shades or curtains closed.

The other element is to take note of strong AC currents. While you'll want to keep the house cool, this tiny toy breed does not do well with cold air pouring directly on him. Gated areas or playpens should be situated where they will benefit from cooling systems but are not in direct line of the cold air being cycled out. 

Owners should always be prepared for a possible power outage in the summer that could put a Chihuahua at risk for heat exhaustion. There are some tips ahead for keeping a Chihuahua cool. 

Keeping Your Chihuahua Cool and Safe in the Summer Heat

These summer care elements apply to those without AC or for those that do, what can be done if the power goes out. Additionally, we'll look at how to take care of your Chihuahua when outside on a hot day. 

Inside:

A cooling mat - Cooling mats for canines can work incredibly well to both keep a dog comfortable in the summer and also to cool down after being outside. A quality cooling mat will be a pressure active gel pad; it will not have any electrical cords or power sources. The gel inside absorbs heat from a dog's body and is a safe way to keep a Chihuahua cooler in the summer. These are portable and can even be used outdoors if needed.  

Outdoors:

1) Exercise with care - One of the tricky things about summer care is that you'll want to keep up with your Chihuahua's normal exercise schedule since cutting back can cause behavioral issues due to pent up energy not being released however you'll need to take steps to prevent overheating and damage to the paws via hot surfaces.

This breed does best with two walks per day and if a Chihuahua is taken outside early in the morning and then again later in the evening when the day is cooling down, this alone can help you avoid the searing summer heat and sun. Depending on the weather conditions it may be advantageous to change the routine somewhat; you may find that a longer walk in the cool morning and a shorter one in the evening works better in the summer than a 50/50 split. 

2) Take care when in the yard - You may enjoy spending time outside in your yard in the summer and may be wondering if it's okay to keep your Chihuahua with you. You may spend hours gardening, barbequing or even swimming.  

You'll want to provide an area of shade, a way to cool off via water or both. Many dogs love to splash around in a small plastic children's pool and this is a great method to helping a Chihuahua stay cool in the summer. Another option that many dogs enjoy is an oscillating sprinkler which can keep a puppy or dog occupied for quite some time while the water keeps his body cool.  

3) Protect his paws- Asphalt surfaces can reach up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the air temperature on hot summer days and pavement made of concrete can be up to 30 degrees hotter. While a dog's paws are made of thick skin, they are not invincible and can suffer from first degree burns within 5 seconds. This will cause a drying and peeling effect that will then be exasperated as the Chihuahua moves about. This can be avoided by applying a quality paw wax. A good brand will be absorbed quickly (within 10 seconds or so) and will provide a layer of protection between the paws and any hot roads or sidewalks. This is normally applied 2 to 3 times per week. Another option is to place doggie shoes on your Chihuahua; some actually enjoy wearing these and some are less tolerable. 

4) Bring water - No matter how far you are walking or where your destination is, it's always smart to bring along water for your Chihuahua anytime you venture out in the summer. Not only do dogs drinks much more during hot months and offering water more often can help keep a dog from becoming dehydrated, but also taking a break every 20 minutes to offer cool water can prevent summer heat stress. Portable canine water containers with an opening a large enough to place ice cubes inside and those that had a lid that serves as the bowl are a good choice. 

5) Protect the nose - The nose is especially vulnerable to sunburn just like with humans. Once the top layer is damaged by the sun, it can begin to peel. If steps are not taken to help that heal, it can lead to cracking and more serious issues. Dabbing a snout butter or balm on the nose 15 minutes before heading out can help keep the leather protected and healthy. 

6) Protect the belly - Breeds that stand close to the ground, like the Chihuahua, are prone to sunburn on the belly. This is because the stomach can get sunburned from the reflected light from ground surfaces and the skin in this area is usually very sensitive. It's always a good idea to rub a bit of canine sunblock on the stomach and groin area if you'll be outside for more than 30 minutes in the summer. 

If you'll be taking your Chihuahua to the beach, lake or other outdoor area with hot sand and/or water which can reflect UV rays, paws, nose and belly protection is a must. 

7) Prevent skin and coat dryness - While winter weather can really dry out a dog's skin and coat, summertime can be cause issues as well. The sun can gradually have a burning affect, which can actually cause the fur to change color. If a Chihuahua is outside a lot, dark fur such as brown or black can eventually develop a red tinge.  

Also, during the summer skin can dry out, causing itching and peeling. 
 
The best method to avoid these problems is to use a quality leave-in coat conditioning spritz. These are light sprays that will prevent sun damage. An added bonus is that the right product will also work as a deodorizer and make a dog smell fresh can clean. There is no need to use a lot; it's recommended to spray and then brush downward to distribute the product. 

8) Use a cooling bandana - Canine cooling bandanas can be a great way to keep a Chihuahua puppy or dog feeling comfortable on hot days. These can be used both indoor and when outside. Be sure to use one that is sized for toy breeds so that there is not too much weight placed on the neck. An alternative is to simply soak a 'regular' bandana in cool water and secure it to the Chihuahua, taking care that it fits as a collar should, with two fingers able to be slipped between that and the neck. 

Driving Your Chihuahua in the Summer

With a few safely rules, you can easily bring your Chihuahua with you in the car despite summertime heat.
 
1) Any time you are going to enter in your car with your Chihuahua, turn it on first and run the AC to first cool it off since cars can become overwhelming hot when parked, It is best to open the windows for several minutes to allow the hot air to escape and then close them to allow the colder air to circulate. 

2) Check your Chihuahua's car seat to make sure it not hot (similar to how a steering wheel can become super-hot to the touch in the summer). 

3) While it feels good to have cold air blowing on you on a hot summer day, when you have your Chihuahua in the car, take care that the vent is not blowing directly on him. This breed is very sensitive to temperature changes.

4) Chihuahuas that tend to suffer from motion sickness and in turn don't like being in a car, may need to have a window partially opened in conjunction with the AC running. 

5) Depending on the height of your puppy or dog's car seat, you may find that using car shades is very helpful in keeping the sunlight out of his eyes which can cause a dog to be quite uncomfortable and also increase motion sickness. 
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Chihuahuas and Swimming Pools

If you want your Chihuahua to swim in a large pool, keep in mind that Chihuahuas can swim, however it is a myth that dogs are automatically excellent swimmers. It can take time for a dog to understand how to keep himself afloat. 

Here are some pool safety steps:

1) Never throw a dog into a pool or other large body of water. A dog that is thrown in will 'doggie paddle' to the best of his ability to reach land out of survival instinct, however this is certainly not a method that will teach him that swimming can be fun. 

2) Even if he seems to be enjoying himself, also supervise him while he's swimming. A dog may swim out too far and find himself in trouble. Just like humans, dogs can tire out and struggle to get back. 

3) Most pools have high levels of chlorine to keep the water clean. This can be an eye irritant, so routinely check your Chihuahua's eyes for signs of redness. A canine saline rinse can help clear up bloodshot eyes. Also, if it is left on the coat, chlorine can severely dry out both the skin and fur. Once done, you'll want to thoroughly rinse your Chihuahua off.

Eating Changes to Expect

Don't be surprised if your Chihuahua eats a bit less in the summer. In general dogs eat about 10% less food during hot summer months. Depending on how active your Chihuahua is, coupled with how much of a decreased appetite develops, there may or may not be a noticeable change in weight.  You'll want to keep an eye on this since losing more than a pound can have negative consequences.  If you do notice a drastic decrease in appetite, it can help to break up meals, offering 4 to 5 smaller meals as opposed to 2 or 3. 

Heat Stress or Stroke

No matter how many precautions an owner takes, you can never be completely sure how a dog is going to react to summer heat. And once heat stress occurs, steps must be immediately taken to cool the dog off; if not this can lead to heat stroke which can be fatal. For these reasons, you should know the signs and symptoms of heat stroke with Chihuahuas and what to do if you think it is happening. 

Heat stress (Hyperthermia) is when a dog's internal body temperature is 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat stroke is a step about that, with body temperature being 106 or higher. It is very dangerous and can lead to multiple organ failure.

The following are signs of heat stroke:
  • Heavy Panting
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Small amounts of urine or inability to urinate
  • Trouble walking (acting dizzy, being uncoordinated)
  • Odd and/or confused behavior
  • Irregular heartbeat (skipping and/or rapid)
Without proper treatment, the following can then occur:
  • Kidney failure
  • Shock
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Breathing distress due to fluid buildup in the lungs
  • Seizures
  • Eventual collapse and death
What to Do if Your Chihuahua Has Heat Stroke - While your first instinct may be to rush your Chihuahua to emergency veterinary care, it is important to stabilize a dog before bringing him to the vet. If not, his condition may worsen during the drive there. If outside carry him to a shaded area and into a cool house if possible. 
You will want to slowly cool the body down by placing cool (not cold) wet towels over him. It is also recommended to have a fan circulating air over him. His temperature should be taken every 5 minutes. Once it lowers to 103 degrees F, it is generally safe to then transport him to emergency care. 
Summer Insects

Be sure to always protect your Chihuahua from ticks and fleas. You'll also want to use a safe mosquito repellent for any times that you have your dog out after dusk when these pesky bugs are in full force. 

Look for a NO chemical, safe spray with natural ingredients to fend off bugs. There are some great products that work for fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and flies all at the same time. 

Another element to keep in mind regarding care tips for Chihuahuas in the summer is the issue of hornets, wasps, bees and other stinging insects. Dogs are prone to get bit since they tend to stick their noses into areas where these insects may be such as in bushes and such. Dogs are often stung on the face and while this is painful enough, some may also then suffer an allergic reaction which can be dangerous.
Chihuahua sitting in summer sun window
Lucky, 6 months old
Photo courtesy of Tonya Flowers
If your Chihuahua is stung by a bee other stinging bug, keep an eye on him for signs of an allergic reaction; this includes swelling around the face, breathing difficulty and/or signs of weakness. If a Chihuahua is stung 3 or more times, he should be taken to the vet regardless of how his seems, since toy sized dogs can have severe reactions and it can take up to 45 minutes for these to develop. 

You will want to check your dog to see if the stinger is present. Do not try to remove it with a tweezers, since this can release more venom. It's best to use your license or a credit card to scrape it out. A mixture of water and baking powder made into a paste can be applied to help with swelling and pain. 
List of Summer Care Items for a Chihuahua

1. Cooling mat
2. Paw protection (paw wax or doggie shoes)
3. Nose balm
4. Sun screen
5. Leave-in coat spray
6. Travel water container
7. Bandana or canine cooling bandana
8. Car sun shades
9. Canine anal thermometer
10.No-chemical flea, tick and mosquito repellent

*** If you would like to see our list of recommended products, look to 'Summer Care Items' in the Chihuahua Specialty Shoppe
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