July 1, 2011
Summer is full of fun for most dogs, but there are some risks to our hottest time of year. Read on to learn about dog safety and enjoy summer to its full potential.
Heat stroke is a major risk for dogs, because they don’t have the ability to cool themselves through sweating; they rely primarily on panting as well as some heat loss through the paws. If you suspect your dog has heat stroke (indicated by excessive panting or difficulty breathing, pale gums, bright red tongue, disorientation or confusion, increased heart rate, thickened saliva, vomiting, or collapse), the first thing to do is get the animal out of the heat; wet them completely down with cool (not freezing cold) water if possible, and apply cold water continuously. Place ice packs around the dog if you can, but not in direct contact with his body, as this can actually restrict capillaries in the skin, and get to a veterinarian immediately – with the car’s air conditioning running.
You can administer Rescue Remedy every 10 minutes as well, to help calm the animal. Rescue Remedy is a great tool to have for any stressful situation and is incredibly safe to use. The most common cause of heat stroke is from being left in a parked car, or over-exertion such as hiking or other exercise in very hot weather without sufficient rest in the shade and cool drinks. Always plan ahead and take water with you. It may be better to leave your dog at home, rather than risk his health by letting him stay in a parked car, even for a few minutes.
Dehydration involves a loss of body fluid (water and electrolytes) can be potentially fatal, and usually results from GI upset (diarrhea and vomiting), lack of water or food intake, fever or over-exposure to heat. Severe dehydration leads to organ failure. Signs and symptoms include lack of skin elasticity & sunken eyes, dry mouth, scant (or sometimes excessive) urination, lethargy, and delayed capillary refill time (a delay in the amount of time it takes for the normal pink color to return, after the gum goes white when it is pressed).
Many animals, especially those with lighter hair and skin, can get sunburn and skin cancers as well. As you apply and reapply sun block to yourself, don’t forget to add some to pink, thin furred noses and ears as well as exposed tummies.
There are many good quality canine sun blocks on the market but if necessary, a child’s hypoallergenic, natural sunblock (ideally one without parabens) will do. Particular care should be taken for dogs who have had their fur trimmed for summer. This can expose the delicate skin underneath, which doesn’t usually get much contact with the sun.
Use caution during the hot months when walking your dog. Black top and other hard surfaces like concrete as well as the sand at the beach, can get scorching hot. Parking lots, leather seats, and truck beds can also burn and blister your dog’s pads. It’s sometimes tempting to wet the paws to cool them down but this can actually make matters worse, because wet feet will sizzle even more when they come back in contact with a hot surface.
Paw pad booties are a wise investment if you plan to be out and about in summertime. A torn up towel and tape will work in an emergency situation, to protect the paws until you can get home. Calendula and aloe creams or gels are helpful for soothing blistered, sore paws.
For those who live in rattlesnake territory, be aware that snakes love to sun themselves and will lie out on in the middle of a trail to catch some rays. There are rattlesnake avoidance classes for dogs available in many areas, and a rattlesnake vaccine has now been developed but its reliability and safety have been questioned by some vets.
© 2013 Lucy Postins & The Honest Kitchen This article may only be copied with prior written permission from the company. Reproductions must include credit to the author and a link to this website.