Summer is right around the corner and warm temperatures have already reared their head. With the increase in temperature, it’s important to increase your awareness and remember to take a few extra precautions to keep your canine companions healthy and safe this time of year.
First and foremost, never leave your dog in a parked car. Even for a few minutes. We all know this but dogs (and kids) still die every year from being left in hot cars. Leaving windows down or parking in the shade is not enough. It takes only a few minutes for the temperature inside a car to reach 140 degrees. Heat exhaustion quickly sets in followed by heat stroke, which is often fatal.
Take it easy on the exercise
Of course, your dog still needs exercise during the summer. But high temperatures, hot asphalt and sun exposure all present very serious dangers for our dogs. A good rule of thumb is, if the pavement is too hot for your bare foot, it’s too hot for a dog’s paw. Don’t assume that just because the sun is down the concrete is cool. Check first. Walking in the early morning or at least an hour after sundown are the safest times. At the shelters, we often impose a “No at 90” rule. When the temperature hits 90 degrees, no outdoor activity. It’s too risky. Play indoor games or swim instead. When you do walk, take frequent water breaks.
Watch your dogs around water
Some dogs love to swim and this is a great exercise, especially when it’s too hot to do anything else. Make sure you supervise at all times because dogs can, and do, drown. If you have a pool, teach your dog how to get out. Train him to swim to the steps or ramp. Keep fences closed if you are not available to supervise. If you visit a dog park with a lake, make sure your dog knows how to get out and watch to make sure another dog doesn’t climb on your dog and push him or her underwater.
Some dogs are at greater risk with high temperatures including senior, overweight, long-haired or dark-haired dogs. Short-nosed breeds such as Boxers, Pugs or English Bulldogs have poor panting mechanisms and can not cool themselves off as well as other breeds. Even normal activity at these higher temperatures can be harmful for “at risk” dogs. For dogs with long hair, a short cut can help keep them cool, but avoid shaving them. Dogs with very short hair or exposed skin are susceptible to sunburn, just like us. Apply sun block to noses, ear tips and any exposed skin. Better yet, just keep them out of the sun during peak hours (9 a.m. to-3 p.m. in Phoenix).
Watch your dog carefully for signs of distress. Always carry extra water with you, even if you are only planning on being out for a short while. Wetting down your dog can help cool them down and maintain a normal body temperature. Signs of heat exhaustion include heavy panting, hyperventilation, increased salivation, weakness, inattention, vomiting or diarrhea. Treat any symptoms seriously and consult your vet immediately.
There are many creative ways to enjoy the summer with your dog. Just be mindful of the temperatures and perhaps spend the mid-day enjoying “pupsicles” while watching the classic Cats vs. Dogs.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Stefanie Strackbein is owner of The Canine Connection, a social entrepreneurship promoting adoption and a better understanding of dog behavior to enhance the human-canine bond. More information is available at www.AZCanineConnection.com or e-mail Stefanie@azcanineconnection.com.