There are many things you should keep in mind during the summer months to keep your dog safe, comfortable and happy.
While most of us know to not leave our dog in a closed car, there are still many deaths every year because people do it. Even if you only plan on just running into some place for just a moment, things happen and you could be unexpectedly delayed. Even with windows partially rolled down, the inside temperature of your car can rise quickly.
If you cannot take your dog inside with you, don't take your dog in the car with you. Leave your pet at home, where it is cool and comfortable.
Another thing to remember is the sun makes everything hot, and your dog is going barefoot. While some dogs can handle walking on some hot surfaces better than other dogs, don't make them.
I remember when I was a kid at the beach for the entire summer. The first couple weeks there, the street and sand was too hot on my feet, but after a few weeks of going barefoot, my soles had toughened up and I could tolerate more heat on my feet — but only while moving. I could not stand for more than 30, maybe 60 seconds in one place without burning my feet.
Dogs are similar — some have tougher pads than others, but they still can't stand on the hot road while you, in your walking shoes, stand and chat with someone. It is not just black roads that get hot. White concrete sidewalks, white sand, wooden decks, etc., all get too hot for a dog's bare feet. Even bare dirt can become quite hot.
Grass is generally the safest surface for warm-weather walking. If you must walk on other surfaces, stay moving and don't walk for long periods of time. Walk in early morning or late evening or in shady areas whenever possible.
Remember, dogs can get sunburn, too. Even some long-haired breeds can get sunburn. Dogs with lighter skin tones are more prone for it. There are pet-safe suntan lotions you can purchase or make. Never use human products on your pet unless your veterinarian tells you it is safe.
Also, realize your dog is wearing a fur coat. It can become overheated quickly.
And for those of you that shave your dog's coat down — you have actually increased its risk of overheating, for long hair dogs especially. Many dogs have double coats to protect them from heat and cold. The hair helps to insulate the dog. When you shave them down, you have now removed their body's natural way to help regulate their body temperature.
Also, a dog's body does not adjust to temperature changes as easily as we do. A dog that is used to living in our houses with year-round heat and air conditioning cannot adjust easily to dramatic changes in temperatures. If you want your dog to spend lots of time with you outdoors, it should spend more of its time out of doors than indoors year-round.
Many working dogs are housed in outside homes with fans so that they are able to work for the extensive time out of doors that is required. If a dog is used to living in an air-conditioned home and then is asked to work for, say, four hours outside, it would be too hard physically on the dog. Even though your dog seems to want to be outside with you, you are putting a large strain on the dog physically. You are making the dogs heart work harder.
If you are going to be outside with your dog, be sure to keep plenty of clean, cool water for your dog to drink. You also need to provide plenty of shade and some sort of water your dog can get into to cool its body off with. Plastic kiddie pools work great, but make sure it is filled with clean cool (not cold) water.
There are cooling mats and cooling “coats” you can purchase for your pet. A towel of appropriate size for your dog can be wetted down and laid over your dog's body or placed on the ground for your pet to lie on. You could even place an inexpensive fan outdoors for your pet to rest in front of.
If you plan to do a lot of outside activities with you and your pet, invest in these types of items.
Also, remember to slowly acclimate your dog to temperature changes. For the average pet owner, keep your walks with your pet short and more often. For example, if you usually go for an hour walk with your pet three times a day, maybe do eight or nine walks each lasting 15 to 20 minutes instead.
Always keep plenty of clean clear water available for your pet, indoors and outdoors. Some dogs enjoy eating or playing with ice cubes.
Know the signs of heatstroke in a dog and know the first aid for treating heatstroke. (Ask your vet or look it up on the internet.)
Limit your dog's outdoor playtime in the warmer months. Many of our pets will do anything for us, and that includes playing fetch or walking with us until they keel over. Don't allow it to happen to your pet. If you are going to play out of doors with your dog, keep it short. Limit it to the cooler times of the day. Try to do it in the shade. Consider water activities with your dog. Many dogs love running through an old-fashioned sprinkler or a misting system.
If you do decide to try boating activities with your dog, be aware of some important safety considerations. One thing; not all dogs can swim, and even those that can swim should wear a flotation device. If a dog falls off of your boat, it can panic, and even a dog that is used to swimming can drown quickly. Also, if the worst were to happen, and you were to have a boating accident, your dog could be left miles from shore. In addition, as man's best friend, many dogs will not leave their owner and they can only tread water for so long.
Another thing to remember is how hot the surface of the boat is on your dog's feet and body. Towels or indoor/outdoor carpet will help. Keeping them damp will also help.
During the warmer months, stay alert with your pet. If you are hot, they are hotter. If something burns your hands or feet, it will burn them, too. If you can't walk on it, they shouldn't either. They need lots of fresh, clean cool water available at all times. They need a cool place to sit and lay down. There are products made just for pets to help with keeping them cool or you can design your own. Just be smart and alert and pay attention to your pet. Be prepared just in case of an emergency and know how to handle it.
Cheryl Loveland is a semi-retired dog groomer. She currently lives with Noel, her bichon frisée; Reba, her female bloodhound; Nala, her indoor cat; KitCat, the outdoor farm cat; and Max, her scarlet macaw. Also living on the property are numerous chickens and rabbits. Her daughter's pets include two dogs, a guinea pig, a box turtle and a tank of fish. She is a member of Colonial Bloodhound Club and Mispillion Kennel Club. She welcomes hearing from readers, with their comments and suggestions for future articles. She may be contacted at email@example.com.
By Cheryl Loveland
Special to the Coastal Point