By Steven May of the Daily Growl for Pet News and Views
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first six months of 2012 was the hottest on record across the United States, a full 4.5 degrees hotter than the long-term average. June alone saw 170 U.S. cities tie or break record-high temperatures. Scientists anticipate continual hot temperatures throughout the remainder of summer and beyond so keeping our dogs safe in the heat is of the utmost importance.
To get an idea of what life is like for your dog take off your shoes and take a little walk down a hot sidewalk. Although dogs have pads on their feet, sizzling hot sidewalks, which reach much higher temperatures than the air, can burn their pads. This is just one of the dangers facing our dogs when the thermometer rises but by taking a few, common-sense preventative measures, you can help keep your canine companion cool, comfortable and safe through the “dog days” of summer.
Provide a shaded and well-ventilated area for outdoor exercise
Just as a cold winter shouldn’t eliminate your dog’s exercise needs, neither should a hot summer. If your backyard is the primary spot for exercise, consider a mister or even running a sprinkler during exercise time. Choose a dog park that has ample shade or adjust your dog’s exercise schedule to take place after the sun goes down and the temperature begins to drop. Unlike humans a dog’s sweat glands, which help regulate temperature, are only found on their noses and pads of their feet. So it’s essential that we don’t expose our dogs to temperatures that they are not equipped to handle. And while this goes without saying; water-water-water.
Brushing for Ventilation
Mid and long-haired dogs have the added burden of wearing a coat during the summer. While a visit to the groomer can take care of some of the excess fur it’s also important to brush our dogs at least five times a week. This provides extra ventilation for their skin. And don’t shave your dog.
Summer is more than just heat
The summer months also bring an assortment of new plant growth, some of which can be detrimental to our dogs. Of particular concern are foxtails, most typically found in weedy areas which sprout in the spring and turn brown in the summer when the temperature heats up. Foxtails can attach themselves to our dog’s feet, inside their nose and even ear canals. Foxtails can cause extreme discomfort so it’s important to check your dog daily for any intruders.
An Ocean of Lotion
There are many pet-specific sunblocks on the market which should be used in much the same manner as we use them. Don’t think that you’re sunblock will be right for your pet. Many contain chemicals that can be harmful to a dog if ingested. Apply the sunblock frequently to sensitive areas such as the nose, tips of the ears and any area that has little or no hair coverage such as the groin and the belly. And dress your dog in a T-shirt for extra sun block protection.
Your Car is a Furnace
On an 85-degree day it only takes about 10 minutes for a car’s interior to climb over 100 degrees with cracking a window doing little to help. Once a dog’s internal temperature reaches 109 degrees heatstroke, and possibly death, is the result. Never leave your dog in an unattended vehicle on a hot day. Ever.
We all know how good it feels to down that ice cold beverage or take a shower or swim on a hot day. And it’s no different for our dogs. As owners it’s our responsibility to not just watch for the symptoms of overheating, such as excessive panting and drooling, staggering and extreme weakness, but to avoid putting our dogs in situations where the heat could potentially hurt them.
About the Author
For 35 years, Steven May has provided his expert pet advice to both the veterinary industry and the general public. The former editor of Vetz Magazine, May now heads the pet website The Daily Growl and has over 113,000 followers on his daily pet advice Facebook page.