Heat can be a canine killer. As our temperatures soar into the triple digits, pet owners need to take extra precautions to help their family companion stay cool. Balancing summer recreation with heat safety is serious business for dogs. Appropriate care during the hot summer months includes: grooming, sun protection, and precautions to prevent heat stroke.
Hot asphalt can burn a dog's feet! Asphalt absorbs enough heat to injure the extra thick flesh on a dog’s paw. Never walk your dog on a surface you could not walk barefoot on. Remember that a dog’s body is much closer to the ground than its human counterpart and is more vulnerable to the heat emanating from the road. Temperatures at two and three feet above the ground can be 20 degrees hotter than at six feet. Never go running with your dog after it has been fed and restrict their outdoor activities to the cool hours of early morning or late evening.
Heatstroke is one of the summer’s most frequent canine afflictions and one of the most lethal! Pet owners should know the signs of heatstroke and how to treat it. Symptoms might include: elevated body temperature (body temps can soar as high as 110 causing irreversible brain damage or death), vigorous panting, unsteady gait, physical depression or agitation, thick saliva or froth at the mouth, rigid posture, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, collapsing and signs of shock.
Treating heatstroke involves cooling the dog from the inside out. First, the animals should be removed from the source of heat to a cooler surrounding, such as a room indoors, with a fan directed on his body, or the breezy shade of a tree. Next, its entire body should be dampened with cool, (never cold) water. Ice packs should be restricted to the head, neck, and chest. Do not force the animal to drink water, in a state of shock, he could easily choke. Instead, concentrate on keeping the dog’s immediate surroundings cool, monitor vital signs and contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. Heatstroke always requires immediate professional supervision.
Sunburn prevention is just as important for animals as it is to their human counterparts. Fur is not the problem people think it is. It is a misnomer that a dog’s coat should be cut back to keep them cool during the summer months. Although a dark skinned dog is less vulnerable than that of a light skinned dog they both can suffer from sunburn when exposed to the sun’s rays. It is more important to keep your dog welled groomed and free of mats that cause hot spots (a raw irritated patch of skin) then to shave them and expose their tender skin. Should your dog’s skin become sunburned the following will help; cover the burned area with cool towels and use an aloe-vera preparation for its soothing effects. Do not use topical ointments or sunblock because the animal may tend to lick it off which will further aggravate damaged skin and it might cause itching. As with any medication, consult a veterinarian before trying anything new.
Play it smart – leave your pet at home during the summer – they will be much happier and so will you!