Keep dogs cool as the weather heats up
Talking Dogs: Tips on how to help your pet stay safe and healthy on hot days.
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The dog days of summer are here, and owners should take some basic precautions to ensure their beloved dogs remain healthy, happy and safe.
Of paramount importance is making sure your dog remains protected from extreme heat. If your dog must remain outdoors during the day, adequate shade is a must. Keep in mind that as the sun moves, so does the shade, so it would be wise to check on the amount of shade available to your dog throughout the day. If adequate shade is not naturally available all day by trees and roof overhangs, add a shade umbrella or shade cloth for extra protection.
Dogs will drink water to slake their thirst (thus preventing dehydration), and to cool down. Have cool to cold water available at all times. Make sure the dog's water container is located in a shady area, and it's easy to add lots of ice to the water before leaving for the day. Dogs are not likely to drink water that is warm or hot, thus increasing the possibility of dehydration and overheating.
Even if your dog isn't much of a swimmer, he will likely enjoy access to a wading pool as a way to cool down. For non-swimming dogs, fill a small kiddie pool with just a couple inches of water. But if you have a dog that really enjoys getting wet, fill it up!
Some owners choose to have their coated dog's coat clipped in the summer. However, shaving down to the skin robs the dog of true sun protection. The coat aids in keeping the dog cool in the summer. If you must have your dog's coat trimmed, be sure to leave an inch or two of coat length, which will protect your dog from sunburn.
Brachycephalic breeds (those with short muzzles such as bulldogs, pugs, boxers, Shih Tzus, etc.) are at much higher risk of overheating. All dogs pant as a way to cool themselves, but these breeds are much less efficient panters because of their often-narrowed nostrils and windpipes. They have to work harder to breathe, using more energy and effort to pass air over the tongue and into the lungs. Leash walks and exercise of these dogs should be limited to cooler mornings and evenings, and great care should be taken to keep them cool during the day — preferably indoors.
Dogs generally have a rough time keeping themselves comfortable in hot weather without help from us. They don't sweat (except to a minor degree at their foot pads), so they must rely on panting to exchange warm air for cooler air, which is extremely inefficient when the air around them is already warm. Heat stroke is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention, and should be avoided with the preventive measures described above. Signs that indicate your dog is having a heat stroke include heavy panting and difficulty breathing, bright red tongue and mucus membranes, staggering or unsteadiness, and sometimes vomiting. Seek veterinary attention immediately.
Finally, use good judgment when walking your dog in the summertime. Avoid hot concrete and asphalt surfaces, as they can burn your dog's paws. And be aware of your dog's body language; he can't tug on your pant leg and point to the ground or "tell" you that his paws are sizzling, but a dog that is "dancing" on the sidewalk, holding up one paw and then another, is definitely getting scorched.
Lisa Moore's pet behavior column is an occasional feature. She writes for The Modesto Bee.