Summer is a time of outdoor fun for most of us, and as dog-lovers we want to include our pets in those activities. Most of us are well aware of the dangers our dogs face when outdoors in the heat, but I learned a few things recently that I did not know about protecting our fur-babies in the hot months of the year.
Our sanctuary is in the desert. We are accustomed to horrendous triple digit heat waves. The news this time of year is sprinkled with tragic stories of dogs that have died from being left in a car in the heat. 70 degrees feels like a cold front here, but that is the cut-off point for taking your dog with you to run errands if it means they will be left in the car for even a few minutes. Even with the windows cracked, the interior of the car will heat up to dangerous levels very quickly.
Heat exhaustion or heatstroke will cause your dog to pant heavily, breathe rapidly, salivate, have muscle tremors, stagger, vomit, and occasional their tongues will turn dark. One thing a dog will not do when suffering from heatstroke is bark. If you witness any of these symptoms in your dog you need to get them inside or at least into the shade. You can cool them off with wet towels, water to drink, or even hosing them down. Do not put them into ice water, that could cause them to go into shock. If they don’t recover fairly quickly, and especially if they vomit or become extreme lethargic, they need to see a vet right away.
Taking our dogs for walks, runs, or with us when we ride our bikes is very popular in the summer. We must remember, however, that we don’t walk directly on the pavement and the heat produced from asphalt or concrete can be devastating to our dog’s paws. The five second rule is helpful in determining if it is safe to walk your dog on any type of pavement. If you can’t hold the back of your hand on the pavement for five seconds, then it is too hot for tender paws too.
Dogs can also get sunburned, especially short hair dogs. Prolonged exposure to the sun can put our babies at great risk. It helps to trim long or heavy coats, but don’t shave your long-hair dog. They lose their ability to insulate against the heat and you have defeated your purpose.
If your dog must stay outside during the day they absolutely require shade, a breeze, plenty of water to drink, and a pool to lay in. A new product that can help is called Ruffwear swamp cooler jackets. These coats are drenched in water before you put them on the dog and the water that the fabric holds works like an evaporated cooler. They are available on Amazon and probably most pet stores.
Summertime also brings out the bugs. We are all aware of the dangers of ticks, fleas, and mosquitos for our dogs. Kissing bugs (Triatomines) are also becoming a problem in the southern part of the United States. Dogs that eat these kissing bugs or that are bit by them will have the Protozoa from this bug in their blood stream. It causes cardiomyopathy and there is no current cure. Long-term survival from this condition is unlikely.
Rodents and rabbits carry botflies. These nasty little creatures can be found in grass and will attach themselves to dogs. They migrate around on the dog until they find an orifice to enter its body. They end up under the skin and produce bumps called marbles. Symptoms of a botfly infection can include respiratory or neurological problems. If these maggots are found early enough they can be removed and the dog can receive successful treatment. If however, the dog is displaying neurological symptoms, treatment can be difficult and often unsuccessful. It helps to keep the grass cut, and to keep your dogs away from wood piles or lights that stay on at night and attract these bugs.
I realize that I am mostly preaching to the choir here. Most of my readers are very aware of these dangers. But I felt it was worth the time to post a reminder of the things we all know, and a head’s up about some of the things we might not be aware of.