As the summer heat starts to rise, you should take extra steps to make sure your pets are not too hot. Heat stroke in pets can occur quickly and, if not dealt with just as quickly, it can kill your pet. Heat stroke can cause strokes, heart attacks and more. Older dogs, dogs with health issues, overweight dogs and dogs with heavy coats are the most at risk, but it affects all dogs.
Some things to consider as the heat rises are does your dog have constant access to clean fresh water? If you leave your dog in a crate or blocked in a particular room in your home, make sure the dog has access to water. If you are leaving your dog in a crate, there are stainless steel buckets that you can clip to the crate so the water bowl does not get knocked over.
Even if you think, “Well, I left the AC on,” what happens to your home in a few hours after the AC breaks down or the power goes off, especially if a dog is left in an enclosed room? Say you leave your dog in an enclosed sun porch. You have a fan there for them. What do you think happens when the temperature outside goes to a sunny and humid 90-plus degrees and the fan stops working? You bake the dog.
Most people have become aware of the dangers of leaving a dog in an enclosed or poorly ventilated car. But leaving a dog in the car while you run in the store, and thinking that leaving the car running with the AC on, can also be dangerous. For one thing — it is illegal to leave an unattended vehicle running. For another, that car is closed up, so what happens if the AC gets accidentally turned off by a dog moving around the vehicle? Or if something happens and the car stops running or the AC stops?
It is not worth the risk.
Also, what happens if you get tied up in the store for longer than expected or, even worse, you have a medical emergency and get taken to the hospital? There are just so many things that can happen by leaving your pet in an unattended vehicle. Is it really worth the risk?
I have had to travel with my dogs before, and my car was a station wagon set up for the dogs. The back windows had “screens” in them so the windows could be left down. The front windows were lowered but not far enough that the dogs could escape. There were two buckets of water in the back of the car. There were toys, chewies, beds and blankets. Whenever possible, I would park in the shade.
I took all of the precautions, and I still had to watch the dogs carefully, because they would get excited about going in the car and that would add to the amount of heat and reduce the time that it would take for them to get heat stroke. Dogs can overheat so quickly and, if not dealt with immediately, they can die.
Another thing to consider is shaving your dog down. This is not a good idea. Dogs need their hair to help to insulate them and to help cool themselves. Keeping your dog's coat well-brushed is a better idea. All that dead hair you find around your house, on your clothes and on your furniture, is just a small portion of the dead hair on your dog. Getting your dog professionally groomed, with a professional blowdry, will help you control the problem.
Dogs with heavy coats, like akitas, malamutes, huskies, collies and the like, need a quick daily brushing and a good weekly brushing, and an all-out thorough monthly brushing. It will help keep the dog feeling better. It will help the dog to be able to naturally cool itself (to an extent), and it will help to keep the amount of shed hair out of your home.
Labs are another breed that would benefit from a regular professional grooming and then regular home maintenance. They should be brushed with a shedding blade daily and a good weekly brushing with a shedding blade, slicker brush and comb.
All dogs should have regular daily or weekly home grooming but, minimally, monthly.
To find out how to keep your dog's coat well-maintained and which tools are best for your dog, ask your local groomer. Most groomers will help you to determine which tools to use for your particular dog. Some will even show you how to use them on your dog. I offer these services free of charge, but some groomers may charge a fee or ask for you to make an appointment for these services. If one groomer is unwilling to help you with this, ask another.
If your dog spends large amounts of time outside, be sure to provide shady areas for your dog. Remember that a shady spot in the morning hours may be a sunny spot in the later hours of the day. Providing a dog house, a tent or tarp is another way to provide shade. Also be sure that you have at least two containers of clean fresh water that are shaded and somehow mounted so they cannot be knocked over.
Providing a small “kiddie pool” for larger dogs so they can climb in to cool down is another option. If you do set up a kiddie pool, make sure you monitor your dog with it for several days before you leave your dog unattended with it. Most larger dogs will be perfectly safe, but not all dogs are the same. Just like it is not safe to leave some dogs loose in your home unattended, it is not safe to leave all dogs alone with a kiddie pool.
Remember, nothing is 100 percent safe for unattended dogs. Accidents happen. Only you can judge what is relatively safe for your individual pet.
Another thing to consider is exercise for your dog in warmer weather. If you walk your dog, it is best to do this in the cooler parts of the day: early morning and later evening. If your walks are on the longer side, or if your dog is not in ideal physical shape, you should carry some water to provide for your dog while you are on your walk.
Some dogs will drink from a water bottle, but most prefer a bowl of some sort. There are collapsible bowls made just for these purposes. Your local pet stores should have them available. They are relatively inexpensive. There are also bottles designed with a flip out “bowl” attached to them so you have bowl and bottle all in one.
It is best if you teach your dog to accept using these special bowls or bottles before needing to use them. Some dogs do not willing accept these “strange” items and will not use them, so training them to use it is required, and you do not want them to literally die of thirst when water is available but in a strange contraption. Practice with them at home before needing to use them on the road.
Another thing to consider is where you walk or exercise your dog. Remember, all dogs go barefoot. They do not wear shoes to protect their feet from the hot surfaces they walk on. Walking your dog on asphalt and concrete is good for helping to keep their nails filed down, but in the hot summer, these surfaces also get very hot. Sand also gets very hot. Grass and dirt are about the only surfaces that do not get hot.
It is OK to walk your dog on sidewalks and the like, but remember to keep walking. Stopping and standing still, if only for a minute or two, can burn your dog's feet. Don't just believe me — go try it for yourself.
There are booties you can purchase for your pet if you do a large amount of walking in warmer weather. The best thing is to try to walk your dog at cooler times of the day and to be more aware of the fact that your dog is barefoot. Regularly check your dogs' pads for burns, cuts and other problems, like debris caught in between its toes.
If your dog does get overheated, you need to take immediate action. Start by trying to cool the dog down. Soak towels in cool water and apply to the dog. Use cool, not cold, water. If possible, hose the dog down. Provide small amounts of water for the dog to drink.
Contact a vet or animal ER. They will talk you through things to do until you can get the dog to them. Do not waste time. Take the dog to a vet immediately. Stroke, heart problems, organ damage and death can occur quickly. Do not debate costs, etc. Get immediate help. Even if it looks like your dog has recovered, unseen damage could have occurred. Your dog needs to be examined by a vet.
Dogs can overheat more quickly than people. Dogs with heavy coats and dogs with short or flat muzzles are more at risk. Improperly groomed dogs are also at a higher risk. Think before you take your dogs out in warm and hot weather, and when you do take them out, be prepared for emergencies. Keep your eyes on your dog and watch for signs of dehydration and overheating. And take immediate action if you even think your dog has overheated.
Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with two bloodhounds, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training her male bloodhound for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.