By Nomi Berger
According to the calendar, it’s officially summer! And with the hot days comes hot dogs.
Imagine yourself on a sweltering, summer day wearing a full-length fur coat. Are you hot? Itchy? Thirsty? Are you anxiously looking around for shade?
Now imagine dogs outside on the same sweltering day. And you’ll have some idea of how THEY feel.
Protecting your own dog from the hot sun, hotter air and even hotter ground is essential to keeping your dog safe – and cool — outdoors. All it takes is common
sense and advanced planning.
Annie on a warm summer day, enjoying the shade.
The following are some suggestions:
- For dogs with particularly thick or heavy coats, have a groomer trim them back into a shorter, more comfortable cut.
- Guard against sunburn by applying either a child’s SPF 45 sun block or a specially formulated animal sunscreen to your dog’s ears, nose and belly.
- Whether on a porch, patio or lawn, create a shaded area for your dog using tall planters or high shrubs. As a temporary measure, you can always set up a makeshift canopy by draping a blanket or sheet across the tops of two chairs.
- Turn on a garden sprinkler and let your dog continually run back and forth through the cooling spray, or fill a small wading pool with water and monitor him as he sits, soaks or plays in it.
- Ensure that your dog is properly hydrated by keeping his water bowl filled with cool, fresh water and free of such floating debris as insects and leaves.
- Limit all of your dog’s outdoor exercise. Take your walks early in the morning or when the sun is setting. If the day is particularly hot and humid, forego your walks and exercise altogether. NEVER walk your dog, exercise or play games with him in the middle of the day, when the sun is brightest and the temperature is hottest.
- Avoid hot asphalt, which can quickly burn the pads of your dog’s highly sensitive paws. Place the back of your hand to the sidewalk or pavement. If you can’t keep your hand there for SEVEN seconds, then both surfaces will be too hot for your dog. Wherever and whenever possible, walk your dog on the grass instead.
- NEVER leave your dog unattended in the car. Do NOT assume that by parking in the shade with the windows cracked that your dog will stay cool and safe. A car acts like a greenhouse, trapping and magnifying the sun’s strength and heat. Both the air and upholstery temperature can rise so rapidly that a dog can’t cool down. Since dogs don’t sweat, their only way of cooling down is by panting or releasing heat through their paws. And because a dog’s normal body temperature is about 102° F, raise it BRIEFLY by only two degrees, and heat exhaustion, brain damage, even death may occur.
- Leaving your dog in the car with the air conditioning on is also risky, especially if you are gone for 15 minutes or more. Why? Because when the car is idling, the air conditioning slows, and the temperature rises, along with the body temperature of your dog. Many dogs have even died in cars as a result of faulty air-conditioning systems.
- ALWAYS monitor your dog for signs of heat exhaustion. They include exaggerated panting, excessive salivation, a vacant expression, restlessness or listlessness, trembling and skin that’s hot to the touch. If your dog exhibits ANY of these symptoms, get him into the shade as quickly as possible. Give him cool water to drink and either hose him down, cover him with cool, damp cloths or put him in a bathtub filled with cool water. NEVER use or apply ice. If your dog’s condition worsens, seek immediate medical attention.
Being a responsible dog owner is being an informed and attentive dog owner. And although the list of suggestions may seem long, the number of hot days each year is much longer.
Chelsea enjoying the shade.