Today, my column is devoted to the very important topic of weather temperatures. As we enter the summer months, we must be ever mindful of our pets’ safety and comfort. I recently read about a dog that perished from heat stroke, and locally, another dog was left in a car in a parking lot. The police were called by concerned good Samaritans. In one case, the dog lost its life, and in the other, thankfully, the dog was saved.
Walking is always great exercise for you and your dog. But during the warm summer months, I typically walk my dogs in early morning (a favorite time as I am an early riser) or later in the day. Always check the pavement to prevent your dog’s pads from burning. Even after dark, pavement can retain heat and burn your dog’s feet. If I take my dog on an excursion during warm weather, I am always sure to give rest periods in shady areas and keep us both well hydrated.
When driving, always keep the air conditioner on for the safety and comfort of your pet. Dogs should never be left in a parked car, even in a shady area or a parking garage. Even with the windows cracked, temperatures inside a car can rapidly increase and quickly be fatal to your dog.
Leaving pets outside
Cities and states are now instituting new legal protections for dogs that prohibit them from being left outside in extreme cold or hot temperatures. In Pennsylvania, people who leave dogs outside in over 90 degrees Fahrenheit heat could face steep fines or even jail time.
Some breeds of dogs are at a higher risk of overheating due to breathing problems. Dogs with pushed-in faces such as Pugs, French Bulldogs and Pekingese, just to name a few, are safest and most comfortable in an air conditioned environment during hot summer months. Always check with airlines regarding any pet restrictions when traveling during warm summer months.
Dogs pant to cool themselves, but excessive panting can be a sign that your dog is overheating and in distress. If your dog appears extremely tired and does not want to move, it might be an indication that the dog is experiencing heat stroke, which can be fatal. Make an immediate trip to the vet. You can dribble some water into their mouth and begin cooling their body using room temperature water. It is important not to bring the
dog’s body temperature down too quickly.
I ended up in the hospital last year for this one — dehydration. It is essential that your dog have access to fresh water year round. Keep your dog hydrated during summer activities by always carrying fresh water and a travel water bowl. Take breaks to allow your dog to drink. A wet bandanna wrapped around the dog’s neck will also aid in keeping the dog cool. And keep yourself hydrated as well!
Shaving a double coat dog down during the summer months will actually do more harm than good. Their heavy coat traps the air closest to their skin and keeps it the same temperature as their ideal body temperature. Shaving a dog down not only increases the risk of heat stroke, but sunburn, too.
There are a variety of sunscreens on the market to protect your dog’s sensitive skin from sun damage. Do not use human sunscreens as they usually include zinc or other ingredients not safe for dogs to ingest (as they may lick it when applied).
Ticks can transmit serious diseases to your dog, including Lyme disease. Make sure that your dog is up-to-date on flea and tick prevention. There are many effective products on the market. You can consult with your vet and choose the product that works best for you. Purchase a tick remover. It is always a good idea to check your dog for ticks after walks.
Remember that dogs can drown. Not all dogs can swim. When Smudge was much younger, I went to a lake with my friend. People nearby were throwing bumpers into the lake, which their Golden Retrievers merrily retrieved. Smudge was so excited and happily ran with the group, but suddenly there was no ground underneath him! I panicked and screamed, but my friend assured me that Smudge was fine as he swam in the lake and back to shore, doing the dog paddle and looking like an otter with his ears pinned back and his little black head. So when taking your dog near a body of water, if you cannot swim, make sure someone who is present can. And when taking your dog on a boat, he should always wear a life vest. A handle at the top allows you to easily pull your dog out of the water if necessary.
Enjoy the ride
Finally, teach your dog to enjoy the ride. Never force your dog into a vehicle. Move at the dog’s pace and not yours. You can begin by simply sitting in the car without starting it and offering your dog some tasty treats. The next step would be to start the car and continue to offer treats. Next, a drive around the block, and so on. If your dog only goes into the car to make a trip to the vet or groomer, he will never come to appreciate the wonderful places that he can experience through a car ride. Dogs learn by pairing events. It is vital to pair an outing in the car with a great time from the dog’s perspective. It is not recommended that you feed the dog a meal or an abundance of treats if they are prone to being car sick. This one I speak from experience firsthand. This past Friday night, I gave Rue his dinner and then decided to take him to the vet’s for a weight check (22.8 lbs., and Rue will be 6-months-old on June 25). The vet’s office is about 10 miles away. I was nearly home when Rue began to hurl in my new car that I had less than a week! But Rue, with his Border Collie brain, managed to get most of it into my cup holders, which apparently was the closest thing he could find to a bucket. And now the car has been officially christened and is indeed a Dog-mobile! When dealing with our dogs there are things they need to be taught, there are mistakes that they make. And there are certainly mistakes that pet parents make. Patience, perseverance and love will see us through the hard times, and remember to laugh and enjoy them, even during some of their badness. For example, when Rue (taller than my Cairns and able to reach the counter) took my bracelet off the counter and put it in his water bowl! Dog bless.
Judy Endo is the author of Paws-itive Pet Tales. A lifelong resident of the Wilkes-Barre area, she has been a professional dog trainer/competitor as well as a lifetime animal lover and strong supporter of animal rescue. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org