Those lazy, hazy days of summer are in full swing, and it is hot out there! If we’re feeling the heat, just imagine how our pets are coping with all that fur on them.
While it is tempting to shave down a longhaired dog for the summer, it could do the dog more harm than good as a heavy coat, can protect the dog from the sun and act as insulation from the heat, as long as the coat is well maintained. It is imperative that before the summer heat sets in, that we brush out all of the dog’s winter fur that it sheds throughout the spring.
Ear mites are also problematical during the summer. Many dogs love to swim, and any body of water will do – clean or dirty. In an effort to avoid ear mites, along with eye infections and having pesky clingy insects imbed themselves into your dog’s fur, they should be rinsed off immediately following a dip in the lake or pool.
Speaking of water fun, believe it or not, not all dogs like or know how to swim. If a dog does not know how to swim, but appears eager to give it a try, go slow. Start in the shallow end by tossing out toys or luring it with biscuits. If a dog does not show any desire to swim, don’t make them. Let them enjoy life on shore.
It sounds silly, but just as we wear life jackets while on a boat, so should our best friend. A dog can get knocked off the boat by a large wake or stormy water, resulting in injury. A life jacket enables them to remain afloat until they are rescued. Life jackets are also good protection for older, tired, obese or non-swimming dogs.
We try to pack as much fun as we can into the short summer season, however, it is important to be aware of how the heat affects our pets.
A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101.2F and 102.2F and the only way they can cool themselves off is to pant and sweat through their paw pads. But when it is too hot and the dog cannot properly cool itself, heatstroke can occur. Signs of heatstroke include: bloody diarrhoea, restlessness, excessive panting, thick saliva and standing four-square/posting or spreading its stance for balance. Advanced stages of heatstroke include white or blue gums, lethargy, unwillingness to move, uncontrollable urination/defecation and laboured/noisy breathing.
To help stave off heatstroke, provide your pet with lots of water, walk at a moderate pace and avoid activities during the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm). It is also important to steer clear of outdoor activities on humid and/or poor air quality days. Humidity interferes with a dog’s ability to rid itself of its excessive body heat.
Avoiding heat and humidity is also essential for elderly or very young dogs, both of which have difficulties regulating their body temperatures. Dogs with short noses – Pekingese, Pugs and Bulldogs – also have a naturally difficult time staying cool because they are unable to efficiently pant.
If heatstroke does occur, create a cool breeze on the dog to enable a gradual cooling process. Do not submerge the dog into cold water as this could cause hypothermia as a result of its body temperature dropping too quickly.
Maintaining a regular regimen – walks etc. is important to a dog’s mental and physical well-being. However, we must be mindful of the pavement’s heat. Unlike people whose shoes act as heat barriers, dogs walk directly on the pavement with their pads, which can be quickly and easily burnt by the pavement. Some dogs will tolerate booties on their paws for protection, but most will not. In an effort to minimize the amount of direct contact their paws make with the pavement, restrict them to walking on grass as much as possible. And always bring water with you, no matter how short the walk or activity is going to be. Just like humans, dogs must remain well hydrated.
Dogs need to drink 12 ounces of water prior to a hike (or any other outdoor activity) they require another 12 ounces every 30 minutes during and another 12 ounces afeter the hike/activity. If you notice your dog is not drinking enough and think dehydration may be setting in, it is most easily detected by the loss of skin elasticity – it remains in place/tents when pulled away from the body. Other symptoms include dry nose and gums and sunken eyes.
On fair-furred dogs’ ears and noses, and all over hairless or very fine-haired dogs, use a non-toxic sunscreen, as dogs have a natural inclination to lick off anything applied to their fur/skin.
Believe it or not, animal thefts do occur – from backyards and outside stores, when dogs patiently wait for us to ‘quickly run in’ for something.
In case your dog is taken or breaks free, ensure it is microchipped or wearing a properly tagged collar, which will help bring him/her back home.
Before your dog spends any amount of time alone in the backyard, ensure there are no breaks in the fence line, as well as no room for the dog to dig its way out from under the fence. If there is space between the fence and ground, attach wire mesh to the fence with a few inches buried underground. Move all structures away from the fence that the dog could get on top of and use as a launching pad to get over the fence.
Summer is a time for outdoor fun. By taking simple precautions, the summer can be a wonderfully stress and injury-free time.