This article first appeared in the January/February 2009 issue of Dogs Life.
Keeping your pooch cool in summer
Many pet owners enjoy taking their dogs out for a walk on a beautiful hot summers day, but Hayley Stansell brings up a few matters to consider before hitting the pavement together.
As winter slowly fades away and we welcome the onset of summer, there is nothing better than getting outdoors and taking your dog for a walk. But there are some hazards to look out for before you do. Dogs are much less efficient at cooling themselves down than we are, and you might be surprised to know that they too can overheat if the correct precautions aren’t taken.
While the warm weather is so inviting to get outside and enjoy, its important our pooches are kept out of the hottest parts of the day between 11am and 3pm. One of the best things you can do for your dog is take him for a walk on a hot summers evening instead. Its always a good idea to keep your pup away from hot footpaths, sweltering roads and boiling sand, as they can not only sunburn your beloved animal but prevent heat from being expelled from their body.
The hot sand reflects the suns rays and heats up your four-legged friends body quickly, so if you take him to the beach, ensure he runs near the waters edge instead. As an alternative, steer him onto grassy areas, as its usually cooler to walk on, or check the temperature of the surface with your hand if its too hot with your hand, it will be too hot for your dogs paws. You can even bring some ice cubes along with you to rub on his skin, which is a cool sensation many dogs will enjoy. Or better yet, why not make your own frozen bone treats? Simply purchase some small bones from your butcher, place them in a plastic cup, add a few dog biscuits and weak stock mix, and place it in the freezer until frozen solid your dog will not only love it, but it will cool him down on those humid days.
Never leave your dog in the car, as the temperature can rise to 40 degrees within an hour, even when the windows are wound down. Many dog owners make the mistake of tying their pooch to the back of their trucks in order to keep them cool this is not only dangerous, but it is also against the law and can lead to fines if prosecuted. Leaving your pooch parked in the car with windows ajar is not enough to keep him cool, as temperatures can still rise to an uncomfortable level. Also watch out for garden sheds and other confined spaces that are a haven for high temperatures during summer.
Swimming pools can be as dangerous for children as they can be for pups, so make sure the gate is closed at all times, or better yet, take your four-legged friend to a dog-friendly beach or lake and teach him to swim.
Spray your dog with insect repellent or citronella oil to keep the flies away. The more they are aggravated by fleas, flies and mozzies, the more they will move around and become overheated.
Veterinary specialist Kersti Seksel says its important to use a sun block that is suitable for dog skin, as some dogs may react to a human product. It is especially important to apply waterproof sun block to the tip of each ear and the nose area, especially if you have a white dog or a dog with pale patches on its body. Believe it or not, they can sunburn quite easily, and just like their pale human counterparts, these types of dogs are more vulnerable to the burning effects of the sun. Be mindful to keep a close eye on the lip area and make sure it doesn’t get too pink. If there are signs of blistering or reddening, take him to the vet.
While dogs are known to be resilient, they still feel the heat like we do, so on those sweltering days, perhaps consider keeping your dog inside with you. In really hot and humid weather, having your dog inside with air-conditioning may be necessary, or at least have a child-proof fan circulating, Seksel says.
If your dog must stay outdoors, its essential to create a cool environment to last the boiling summer months. Remember to provide more water than usual whether your dog is playing inside or out and provide two buckets of water in case they tip one of them over. Its always a good idea to keep checking how much water they have, and re-fill it when necessary, or even provide a bucket full of ice that will keep the water cooler for longer. And while your pooch is staying hydrated, ensure he is drinking clean, fresh water, as dirty water can harbour bacteria and upset his digestive system. Water should be placed in a non-spill container and not left out in the sun, as this can heat the water to an undrinkable level. Its always a good idea to spray water over a dog for a bit of a cool down, Seksel says.
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