Summer is here and dog owners and their canine companions are outside enjoying the season.
Unfortunately, these wonderful sunny days can also create problems for our dogs so it's important we pay attention both to the weather, the conditions caused by the weather, and to our dogs.
Dogs Rarely Say No
If you invite your dog to go for a walk, play ball, or go camping, he's going to join you. That's one of the joys of having a dog; they always want to do what we do. Unfortunately, sometimes they will push themselves too far and won't stop until they're too hot. Since your dog won't say no, pay attention to your dog's behavior; in hot weather any behavior change from normal can be a sign he's uncomfortable. Dogs are individuals and many have their own ways to show they're too warm but some of these might include a reluctance to leave the shade, panting, shuffling the feet, and even grumpiness. Have him rest in the shade, offer him a drink of water, and if possible, get him wet. Keep him quiet until he's cooled off.
Know the Signs of Heat Stroke
If your dog is simply hot, keeping him quiet until he's cooled off is usually all that's needed. However, a dog who gets too hot may progress into a heat stroke. The signs of this include a body temperature over 104 degrees, diarrhea, vomiting, depression, stupor, collapse, seizures, organ failure, and eventually death. If your dog begins to show any of these signs, remove him from the excess heat, if possible, and get some cool water on his paws, head, chest and belly. Do not pack him in ice as this could hasten his progression into shock. As you cool him, call your veterinarian for additional instructions. He'll want to see your dog right away but he may instruct you to cool your dog more first as it's vital to lower the dog's temperature before it goes higher.
Beware Hot Surfaces
Be careful where you walk your dog during the hot summer months. Last June I used a digital remote thermometer to monitor the surface temperatures outside my home in San Diego. When the air temperature was 85 degrees, the concrete sidewalk reached 105 degrees and the asphalt was 135 degrees. Both of these were hot enough to burn canine paws. If possible, walk earlier in the day or later when the sun isn't heating up the surfaces. If you have doubts about the surface, place your hand palm down flat on the surface; if it's hot to your hand it's going to be hot for your dog's pads.
I also teach my dogs to wear boots which protect their paws. I find the RuffWear boots fit my dogs well although there are several makers that produce dog boots. Call the Customer Service department for instructions as to how to measure and fit the boots. If the boots don't fit, they could injure the paws and the dog won't want to wear them.
If your dog stays outside during the day while you're at work, make sure he has plenty of shade and water. A normal water bucket may not be enough during hot weather, though. If it gets dumped over, your dog could go without water until you get home and that's dangerous. Use a large heavy container of some kind such as a galvanized five gallon (or larger) tub that can be found at feed stores.
At the beginning of summer each year I buy a couple of shallow plastic kids' pools for the dogs. On hot days I'll put water in one of the pools and toss in dog toys, a few carrot chunks, some apple slices, and ice cubes. As the dogs try to get the toys and treats, they splash in the water, cooling off. One of my dogs will relax in the water, getting entirely wet, while another dog will only get his paws in the water. My youngest will open his eyes underwater so he can see what he's hunting for; it's great fun watching the dogs figure out how to get what they want. Most importantly, the dogs are keeping cool.
Ice Bucket Treats are Cool
This treat needs to be made the night before, but it's well worth the effort. Find a small bucket that will fit in your freezer. Then gather together a variety of treats; these could include the same treats you used in the kiddie pool or some small chunks of cooked meat or dog treats. Fill the bucket about three quarters full of water and put it in the freezer until it's slushy. Take it out of the freezer, stir it well and then mix in the treats. Put it back in the freezer until frozen and it's time to give to your dog. Dump the frozen block of ice out of the bucket outside and let your dog have fun with it. He'll slide it around, lick it, lie on it, rest his head on it, chew it and keep himself cool for quite a while.
Hot Cars are Deadly
Every summer there are numerous television commercials, news articles, and media posts about the dangers of hot cars but the message bears repeating. Children and pets should not be left alone in a car in warm weather; never mind hot weather. Even with windows open a few inches, cars heat up far too quickly. Depending on the car and the outside temperature, the air inside the car could reach 140 degrees in a ten or fifteen minutes. Just don't do it.
Summer is my favorite season and I love to share it with my dogs. With some reasonable care, paying attention to both the weather and my dogs, and being prepared; my dogs and I can enjoy the season and so can you. Have fun.