Pet owners can take smart, simple precautions to ensure their furry friends stay safe and happy during the summer months
After a winter that felt like it would never end, Americans are looking forward to sunshine and warmer days, while our dogs are looking forward to getting out of the house with longer walks and visits to the dog-park. Summertime is great for people and their pets, but there are some important considerations to be aware of.
Just like with people, dogs can be affected by heatstroke when we have extremely hot days. If you take your dog outside for extended periods, provide plenty of fresh, cool water and shade. If possible, consider bringing a beach umbrella wherever you go. The biggest risk factor for heat stroke in dogs is leaving your dog in a non air-conditioned car. Even with the windows down, within a few minutes, the internal temp can shoot into the triple digits. Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting, bloodshot eyes and the dog’s gums turning bright red or blue. If you notice any of these symptoms, get your dog to a vet as soon as possible.
On hot days, offer your dog water consistently. Some dogs like ice-cubes, which are a great way to provide hydration and help them cool off. Dogs can be picky about their water sources so if you are away from home with your dog, make sure you have a collapsible bowl, bottle or other water source you know your dog will drink from.
Shoes are fashionable, functional and fun, however, they hide the fact that the pavement we are walking on with our dogs is often very hot. Your dog knows though. Try taking your dog for walks at dawn or dusk, before the streets and sidewalks get too hot, or walk in areas where your dog has a grass alternative to avoid pad burns. You can also purchase dog booties that will protect your dogs feet and pads. If you are taking your dog to a location where you will be sitting, consider bringing a blanket or cushion as your dogs rear is just as sensitive to hot pavement as his feet.
Water activities can be a great way for your dog to cool off, but be cautious around ponds, rivers and oceans as they can retain bacteria and parasites such as Giardia, which can lead to diarrhea. For dogs who are not natural swimmers, you can find dog life-vests at many outdoor and pet supply stores.
5. Car Trips
Most dogs love riding in cars, but some may experience motion sickness. It’s recommended to not feed your dog two hours before a car trip and talk to your vet about anti-nausea medication if the problem is severe. If you take your dog on extended car rides, pack a water bowl, collar and leash in an easily accessible spot, and stop every two hours for water and bathroom breaks.
6. Extreme Temps
Dogs need activity even if the thermometer shoots up into the red zone. As earlier noted, swimming is a great alternative for some dogs. Low impact walks before or after the temperature spikes can be beneficial too. Just like with people, there are inside exercises that can help alleviate boredom and keep your dog active. Try training your dog to walk on a treadmill if you have one (there are videos online that can provide tips to get you started) or try playing fetch by throwing a ball up the stairs for additional exercise.
The warm season is prime time for fleas and hotspots, and this area is a hotspot for ticks. Make sure you are using a flea and tick prevention and keep your dog’s coat well groomed as the weather warms up. Getting rid of that excess dead fur will help your dog stay cooler and the additional attention you spend on your dog will help you be aware of any issues. Make sure you clean and dry your dog’s ears after swimming or bathing. Lastly, dogs can get sunburned too, and this could potentially result in skin cancer. Use a dog or “baby” sunblock on any areas of skin that are exposed or lightly pigmented.