Summertime has definitely arrived with temperatures across the United States soaring well into the nineties and above! And while summer sun means fun for you, the heat can spell danger for your dog. Broadway Barks researched and compiled the best summertime care and safety tips to help keep your dogs safe and happy this summer season.
Stay Indoors, and NEVER Leave a Dog in a Parked Car
Dogs are not efficient when it comes to keeping cool. Dogs do not sweat or perspire, so the only way they can keep themselves cool is through panting and dispelling heat through the pads of their feet. Drinking water and laying in the shade helps to cool them, but it is best if they are kept indoors in an air-conditioned environment. And for you joggers out there, remember that your dog may not be able to cool itself in high heat and humidity, so it might be best to leave your dog at home when you do a summer run.
Being shut in a parked car is the worst summer danger a dog can face. A parked car can become dangerously hot in a matter of minutes. When the mercury measures 90 degrees outside, temperatures inside a parked car can reach well over 130. Because dogs can only release body heat through their feet and by panting, sitting trapped in the superheated air of a parked car does not allow any heat to leave the body, and the brain and internal organs begin to shut down. A dog left in a parked car will suffer brain and organ damage within just fifteen minutes. NEVER leave a dog in a parked car, even if you think you are going to be quick.
Dogs Get Sunburned Too
Light-colored dogs have another worry when it comes to summer sun—sunburn. Dogs with light-colored coats and dogs that do not have black pigment around the eyes, ears, and nose are especially susceptible to sunburn caused by the same damaging ultraviolet rays that harm us. Dogs with light-colored coats and dogs with short hair can suffer from sunburns and even skin cancer. The best way to prevent sunburn and the resulting pain and skin damage is to limit your dog’s sun time. You can also ask your veterinarian about sunblock for your dog if you have a very sensitive pet. But never use human sunblock on your dog; only use sunblock provided by your veterinarian in a formula made for dogs. Also, try to walk your dog before sunrise and after sunset when the sun is not quite as strong. If this is not always possible, take shorter walks on really sunny days and always make sure to take a water supply with you.
Always Supervise Swimming Dogs
Nothing beats the heat like a dip in the pool, and many dogs love to swim. But unsupervised swimming is dangerous for dogs, just as it is dangerous for children and adults to swim alone. Also, dogs also do not care about the cleanliness of the water, so it is up to you to make sure your dog is thoroughly rinsed off after a dip in a lake, river, or stream. This will help avoid ear and eye infections and will help dislodge insects that can get embedded in your dog’s fur. You can also ask your vet about a vaccine for Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection dogs can get from drinking contaminated water, or when contaminated water enters the bloodstream through an open wound.
If your dog prefers to swim in the family swimming pool, make sure he/she is well supervised at all times. And, if your dog loves to jump into the pool, make sure he/she knows how to get out. It sounds simple to us, but a dog’s instinct will tell them to turn around and get out the same way they got in. However, many swimming pools are not easy for a dog to get out of, and a dog desperate to get out of the pool will become exhausted and drown. You must teach your dog how and where to get out of the pool no matter how he got in. Dog life jackets are also available at many pet store chains and can allow a dog to swim comfortably without as much effort. This is especially good for senior dogs or dogs with arthritis, as the swimming is good for their joints and can relieve arthritis pain—however, older or arthritic dogs tend to tire more easily. Finally, not all dogs like water and, even though swimming is instinctual, not all dogs are good swimmers. NEVER force your dog to swim or throw a nervous dog into the water. This will make the dog fearful of the water and will strip any enjoyment out of swimming. If your dog seems eager to get in the water, encourage him or her gently and always make sure he/she is supervised.
Signs of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is an acute form of hyperthermia, which occurs when the body absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. Special care should be taken with puppies, older or overweight dogs, and dogs recovering from illness or injury as they are less able to handle heat and humidity. Brachycephalic breeds (short-nosed dogs; pugs, bulldogs, Pekinese, etc.) should also be closely monitored in the heat. Common situations leading to heat stroke are being locked in a hot car, strenuous exercise in heat, being confined without shade and water, and being confined on concrete or asphalt. Signs that your dog may be having a heat stroke are: heavy panting, weakness, stumbling, collapse, increased salivation or heavy drooling, changes in gum color (gums may turn bright red, or even purple or blue due to lack of oxygen), bloody diarrhea and/or vomit, and disorientation.
What To Do if You Suspect Heat Stroke
Of course you do not want your pet to spend the entire summer cooped-up inside, so just use common sense in making sure your pet stays cool, hydrated, and happy. If you suspect heat stroke seek medical attention immediately. Acute hyperthermia, or heat stroke, affects nearly every system in a dog’s body; therefore, simply lowering the dog’s body temperature will not address all the areas of concern. In an emergency, move your dog into a cooler environment and use a fan to point cooler air in the dog’s direction. Then, place cool damp towels on the back of the dog’s neck, under the armpits, and in the groin region. You can also use water or rubbing alcohol to wet the earflaps and paws, which will help draw heat away. NEVER use cold water or ice to cool your dog as this causes the blood vessels to constrict, and the shock can induce seizures. Give your pet access to cool drinking water, but do not force them to drink. Always seek veterinary care for a dog when heat stroke is suspected, even if you think the danger has passed.
Summer can be a wonderful time for you and your dog as long as you take care to avoid heat- and sun-related dangers. Remember to beat the heat by keeping your dog indoors and limiting long walks and exercise to cooler and less sunny times of day. Make sure your dog always has water available and is never kept in a parked car. Supervise all swimming activities, and watch for signs of heat stroke. Always seek medical attention if you suspect a heat stroke is occurring or has occurred. By following these simple tips, you are well on your way to having a safe and enjoyable summer with your dog.
By Charlene Sloan