Our dogs love the summer just about as much as we do, so keeping them safe is a big part of the enjoyment of the season. While there is nothing wrong with taking your dog on hikes, picnics, or swimming, you should be aware of some of the risks of what the warmer weather brings.
Dogs do sweat, but not very much, and it does little to cool them off. As you probably know, dogs more commonly cool themselves down through panting. When there is only hot air for a dog to breathe, it’s a lot harder for that dog to keep cool.
A few things to keep in mind while out are out enjoying the day:
NEVER, ever leave your dog in a hot car! Not even for a minute. Not even with the car running and air conditioner on. Okay, you’ve probably heard this one before, but it’s so important that we still decided to list it first. It can take minutes – yes, MINUTES – for a pet to develop heat stroke and suffocate in a car. Most people don’t realize how hot it gets in parked cars. On a 78 degree day, for instance, temperatures in a car can reach 90 degrees in the shade and top 160 degrees if parked directly in the sun! Your pet may suffer irreversible organ damage or die Your best bet is to leave your dog home on warm days. If you’re driving around with your dog in the car, bring water and a water dish and take your dog with you when you leave the car.
Limit exercise on hot days. Take care when exercising your pet. Adjust intensity and duration of exercise in accordance with the temperature. On very hot days, limit exercise to early morning or evening hours, and be especially careful with pets with light-colored coats, which are more susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, which typically have difficulty breathing. Asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws, so walk your dog on the grass if possible. Always carry water with you to keep your dog from dehydrating. Talk to your veterinarian about sunscreens for your dog (don’t assume a sunscreen for people is appropriate for your dog).
Watch the humidity. “It’s important to remember that it’s not just the ambient temperature but also the humidity that can affect your pet,” says Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels—very quickly.”
Watch for signs of heatstroke. Extreme temperatures can cause heatstroke. Some signs of heatstroke are heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue, seizure, and unconsciousness.
Animals are at particular risk for heat stroke if they are very old, very young, overweight, not conditioned to prolonged exercise, or have heart or respiratory disease. Some breeds of dogs—like boxers, pugs, shih tzus, and other dogs and cats with short muzzles—will have a much harder time breathing in extreme heat.
How to treat a pet suffering from heatstroke: Move your pet into the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck, and chest or run cool (not cold) water over her. Let her drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take her directly to a veterinarian.
Don’t assume your dog can swim well. Just because dogs instinctively know how to swim, doesn’t mean they’re good swimmers. And if your dog jumps in your swimming pool, he might not be able to get out without help and could easily drown. Make sure your dog can’t get into your swimming pool without you around. Give your dog his very own “kiddy pool”. Dogs who love the water, naturally love it even more during the hot months, and getting wet keeps them cool. Providing a small, kid-sized pool will go over big.
Make sure your dog is protected from parasites like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. If not protected, your dog is at risk for heartworm, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a host of other nasty and dangerous conditions. And don’t forget, many of these diseases can be caught by people too!
If there’s no fence, keep your dog on a leash. Summertime means all sorts of exciting sights, scents, critters running around, and new and exciting places to explore. You never want to lose your dog because he became distracted in an unfamiliar environment. And remember, not every dog is meant to be off-leash; some dogs just can never be fully trusted to come when called. Make sure you understand your dog’s tendencies and err on the side of being overly-cautious. Please also keep in mind that not all dogs want to say hello to your dog. Give them the space they need so that they can enjoy the outdoors as well.
Provide ample shade and water. Any time your pet is outside, make sure he or she has protection from heat and sun and plenty of fresh, cold water. In heat waves, add ice to water when possible. Tree shade and tarps are ideal because they don’t obstruct air flow. A doghouse does not provide relief from heat—in fact, it makes it worse.
Watch your dog’s weight. After a long winter, many dogs put on a few extra pounds. Summer is the perfect time to increase his level of exercise and get in tip-top shape. A pet that maintains a healthy weight throughout his lifetime will live, on average, 2-3 years longer than an overweight pet! Just make sure not to over-exert your dog. Talk to your veterinarian, give him adequate rest and if your dog is especially overweight, make sure you ease him into physical activity.
For more information on how to train your dog, contact us at Sit, Stay,’N Play. We are located at 1501 North 5th Street in Stroudsburg. 570.872.9748 or online at www.sitstaynplay.net Did we mention that a trained dog is a happy dog?