A friend of mine once told me that on hot days, her grandmother would say, “If you’re looking for the coolest spot in the house, follow the dog.” I’ve found that that’s a true statement most of the time… I say most of the time because sometimes, on the hottest, sunniest days, my dog Seth will lie right down in the middle of my parents’ hot deck and refuse to come inside where it’s nice and cool. It usually just takes the promise of a treat to get him to come in, though, which I do to make sure he doesn’t overheat, being a big, furry black dog and all.
During the summertime, we need to make sure we take precautions while we enjoy the beautiful weather. Our guest post today is by Claudine J. Randazzo from FIDO Friendly magazine (www.fidofriendly.com), who is writing about:
Making the Dog Days of Summer Safe Ones
Most people look forward to enjoying outdoor activities with their dogs during the summer months—and they should. However, take a simple queue from Fido before you head out to the great (and warmer) outdoors. What’s the queue? Have you ever noticed while walking or hiking with Fido on a warm and sunny day that he/she stealthily heads for a shady patch of the trail every chance available? It is an instinct, and even though it may provide only a brief respite from the high temperatures, dogs understand that every little bit counts when it comes to keeping their hair-covered bodies cool.
Including your dog on family outings makes the adventure more fun for everyone. However, Fido’s needs are special ones, and they often get overlooked, which can have quick and dire consequences. The four major things to prevent so that your dog does not suffer during the summer are overheating, dehydration, sunburn and heartworm.
Dogs are not able to cool off as efficiently as we are; they have hairy bodies and do not have as many sweat glands, but rather they rely on panting and being in cool temperatures to regulate their body temperatures. They can get overheated from enjoying outdoor activities, but many die each year from heat stroke simply from being left in a fenced yard with no shade or water or from being left in a hot car. Be aware of your dog’s surroundings and situation at all times. Leaving Fido in the air conditioned house when you leave during the day is optimal, but if you cannot, then make sure he has a cool, shady place to rest with gallons of clean water available to him. The car is never an option for Fido. Even when the temperature is only 70 degrees outside, the temperature in the car can climb to 100 and sometimes 200 degrees—even with the windows cracked open! It takes a surprisingly short amount of time for a dog to overheat beyond recovery in this situation.
The other caveat is to not neglect Fido’s need to cool off after a walk or any activity on a warm day. Make sure if you’ve been playing for 20 minutes or all day that Fido is given a cool place to rest and drink water afterward. Other tactics for keeping your dog safe and cool are playing in the morning or evening hours and, while outdoors, pouring water on his head, making sure that it reaches the skin around his ears and neck.
Dogs only have sweat glands in their paws and ears. Their most efficient way of releasing heat from their body is through panting; shallow breathing.
Bring plenty of water for your dog to drink while outdoors, even if you will be spending time at a river or lake. Separate containers of water for you and your dog are best to ensure that you both have enough (this goes for summer car travel as well). Don’t forget a small bowl for your dog to drink from. Many pet supply stores and stores that sell outdoor gear have collapsible bowls that easily fold up for carrying in a pocket or backpack. If you forget a bowl, look for a large indention in a rock in which to pour the water or use your hands cupped together.
Remember to increase Fido’s water intake if you are at higher elevations than he/she is used to or in a drier or more humid climate than usual. It is difficult for dogs to drink while they are panting and in the process of cooling down, so never make the assumption that if Fido doesn’t drink it means he doesn’t need to. Always keep water available in a shaded area so Fido can drink when he is ready.
Typically this is only a concern in dogs that have a lighter skin pigmentation, such as Pitbulls and Bulldogs. If your dog has any pink skin around his nose, lips or stomach, limit his exposure to the direct sun and apply sunscreen to these areas when the sun is unavoidable. Dogs can get sunburned just as humans can, and the overheating effects of sunburn will cause their bodies stress just as it does us. (They can also develop skin cancer.)
The other parts of Fido’s body that can get severely burned, although not by the sun, are his paw pads. The rule is that if the ground surface (be it concrete, asphalt, dirt or sand) is too hot for your feet (or the palm of your hand), then it is too hot for Fido. Always check the surface temperature before letting Fido step on it, as painful and debilitating heat blisters can occur. Some dogs do not mind wearing booties, and if you spend a lot of time enjoying outdoor activities with Fido, investing in a good pair of dog booties is wise.
This silent and wicked malady affects dogs all over the country. If undetected and untreated, it is deadly; costly to treat and hard on a dog’s body. Prevention is key and entails a once-a-month preventative pill from your vet. Mosquitoes transmit heartworm, so even if you do not live in a locale where mosquitoes are prevalent, you might travel with Fido to a destination where they are, and you must be prepared.
Make it a fun and safe summer for Fido!