Dog Days Of Summer – A Survival Guide For Your Pooch
by Kaye Davis
Warm summer days offer more time for you to spend outside with you dog. While bright sun and hot temperatures of summer may be nice for a day outside for us, they can be dangerous for dogs.
All dogs are susceptible to heat stroke but dark colored dogs, overweight dogs, older or frail dogs, and brachycephalic dogs (those cute dogs with smashed in noses) are at higher risk than others. Dogs, especially light colored ones, are also susceptible to sunburn. The good news is that these threats to your pooch are preventable.
Protecting Your Dog from Heat Stroke and Exhaustion
Leaving a dog in a parked car during summer weather is the leading cause of heat stroke and too often causes death. Dogs can also suffer heat exhaustion or heat stroke if they exercise too heavily on a hot, humid day or, if they live outdoors and don’t have shelter from the sun. Older dogs are less tolerant of heat and may succumb to heat strokes more readily than younger dogs.
Limit the time you spend in the direct, midday sun with your dog. Don’t keep them in the backyard without shade and plenty of water to drink. You can even help keep your dog cool in the summer months by keeping a kid sized pool in a shaded area for your dog to splash around in.
Never leave your dog unattended in your car or truck. The heat inside a vehicle, even one in the shade, can climb very quickly. At times, the heat in your car can go up to double what it is outside. You may think you can help them keep cool by leaving a window open, but that really doesn’t offer much help. Take them with you when you leave your vehicle. If you can’t, do your dog a favor and leave him or her home.
If you leave your pet in your home each day when you go to work, help keep your dog cool in the summer months by leaving the air-conditioning running all day. You don’t need to leave it on high, but leave it running on the lowest setting so they have some relief from the climbing temperatures.
If your dog has become overheated you will know it by how they act. Heat exhaustion comes first with the symptoms of excessive panting and flushed skin (easiest to recognize in the ears and mucous membranes) or dog is hot to the touch. Without treatment, heat exhaustion will escalate. Look for symptoms like a body temperature of over 1040 F, increased heart rate and breathing, salivation, vomiting and/or diarrhea, weakness or dizziness, stumbling, depression or subdued behavior, seizures and loss of consciousness.
If your dog is showing signs of heat exhaustion/heat stroke, take action immediately by calling your veterinarian. Do not wait it out because even if they seem to have improved, there’s a chance that internal damage has been done if their fever was over 1040 F and they may experience organ failure, heart and respiratory problems, seizures, or death.
Protecting Your Dog from Sunburn
Just like humans, dogs can be burned by the sun, especially the nose, tips of the ears and around the lip area. Common sense dictates that you keep your dog in the shade during the hours when the sun rays are most intense. However if you need to be outside during these times it is okay to apply sun-block to your dog’s nose and the exposed skin on the ears. It is okay if the dog licks the sun-block, because most are not toxic, BUT, you should always avoid sun-blocks that contain zinc or PABA. If you notice that any portion of your dog’s skin is reddened or blistered, contact your veterinarian right away.
Walking Your Dog in the Hot Weather
When you walk your dog in the summer months, remember the pads on their feet are sensitive. You can help keep them cool by watching where they are walking. Sidewalks and road surfaces are extremely hot when they are receiving direct sunshine. Help your dog keep cool by walking them on grassy surfaces when the sun is at its hottest. If you do take your dog hiking or cycling long distances consider outfitting them with shoes or conditioning their paws with a non-Shea butter base paw balm (Shea butter softens the pads but does not condition them).
Water, Water, Water
Be extra diligent about having fresh, cool water on hand for your pet. Keep their bowls at home full, and don’t forget to leave them a pool in the backyard if they must hang out there for any amount of time. If you are walking with your dog, or spending the day at the park, be sure to have plenty of water with you to help keep your dog hydrated.
Keeping your dog cool and healthy in the summer months is not that hard as long as you give it a little thought. Keep exposure to the midday sun to a minimum, offer plenty of water and shade, and keep exercise to a minimum.
Products to check out to keep your pooch cool, safe and healthy in the hot weather
Cooling Collars and Vests
Joshua Tree Pet Salve for chapped paws and noses
Booties for paw protection
Doggles ™ for eye protection
Gravity fed water bowls with large capacity for outside water supply