Who doesn’t love the long, summer days with lazy walks, a dip in the pool, and the aroma from a neighborhood cookout? It is great to include your dogs in the activities you enjoy during this warmest time of the year, but be sure you understand how he handles the heat and other summertime hazards. A dog processes hot temps totally different from the way humans do. Sweat glands, found throughout the entire body, regulate your body’s temperature, but the only sweat glands your dog has are on his nose and the pads of his feet. The primary way he brings his body temp down is through panting and breathing, meaning that his body is not as efficient at cooling down as yours is.
Tips for keeping your dog safe on summer days include:
- Access to fresh drinking water is absolutely essential for all pets at all times throughout the day. It is best to pick up any uneaten food, as it will go stale and may attract flies and ants.
- Exercise her in the cooler times of the day…morning or evening. Try to avoid midday walks and be sure to stay in the shade, especially when temps hit 90 degrees or higher. Regardless of the time of day, don’t overdo exercise sessions. Don’t walk or subject your dog to hot pavement. Not only can this result in burns to tender paws, but because animals are close to the ground—and the ground is hotter than the air—your dog can quickly overheat.
- NEVER leave your pet alone in a parked vehicle…a vehicle becomes a furnace very quickly, even with the windows open, and can cause a fatal case of heatstroke. On hot days, your dog will be much happier left home. If you see an animal left alone in a parked car, notify the nearby businesses and request they make an announcement, and if necessary, contact the local animal control or police department.
- Do not allow allow your dog to hang out of a moving car. Objects such as rocks or debris might hit him, or he might simply jump or fall out. Do not allow animals to ride in the back of pickup trucks. Animals can be thrown from the vehicle if a sharp turn is taken, or get injured if a quick stop is required. Conscientious caregivers do not transport their dogs in the back of a pickup.
- Check daily for possible signs of irritation. Grass seeds lodged in the eyes, ears, or paws can cause a pet pain and need to be removed immediately, and sore spots can become infected quickly in hot weather. Ticks, fleas, and heartworms are very significant issues, with both internal and external parasite infections more common in the summer, and there is also an increase in skin irritations arising from flea allergies. Safe, effective preventative remedies are available to control these nasty critters, but consult with your vet before giving any treatment. Many over-the-counter products are ineffective, and some are downright toxic. Insect stings and bites can also spell trouble…a sting around the mouth or throat can cause swelling and may restrict breathing, and some dogs experience allergic reactions to stings, requiring immediate medical care.
- During the summer, your dog will encounter chemicals, plants, and other substances that can be toxic to him. Store all fertilizers, weed killers, rat poisons, and gasoline in safe places and make sure they don’t leak. Keep your pets off-limits when insecticides and fertilizers are being used, and since pets can pick up residue on their paws and become ill after licking chemicals off, be sure any treated area is thoroughly dry before allowing them back. Many plants that you might have in your garden can cause irritation in ingested. For a complete list of plants that are toxic to animals, go to www.aspca.org and type in “poisonous plants.”
- Be a watchdog for animals at risk: chained dogs, dogs left unattended, or kept outside without adequate shade or fresh water. Perhaps just a polite conversation with the caregiver will be enough to make life better for the dog, but if appropriate changes are not made, it may be necessary to contact law enforcement officers. Get involved….it’s the right thing to do.
By taking a few precautions, you will be able to help your dog stay safe and cool during hot weather.