Summer fun with your dog is right around the corner. But along with the good times come some seasonal hazards that can hurt your dog and spoil the easy-living vibe. Here’s what you need to know so both of you can enjoy the dog days of summer.
Whether your dog is just hanging out in the backyard or spending the day hiking or picnicking with you, he needs to be protected from the sun if he has a thin or light-colored coat. The most vulnerable areas are the nose, face and ear tips, but pets who like to sleep on their backs in the sun can get a painful belly burn. Apply sunscreen made specifically for pets, or use PABA-free sunscreen or zinc oxide. Make sure you don’t get it into your dog’s eyes.
Heat and humidity
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When temperatures get extreme, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are concerns, especially for dogs with flat faces, such as Boston terriers, bulldogs, French bulldogs, Pekingese and pugs. For short-faced breeds, as little as half an hour in high temperatures can be fatal. Dogs with heavy coats or those with heart problems may also be at risk. While it’s fine for pets to have access to the outdoors on a hot day, they should stay primarily in air-conditioned comfort.
Outdoors, they need plenty of shade and an unlimited supply of cool, fresh water. Limit exercise to cool mornings and evenings. Be familiar with signs of heatstroke: excessive panting, weakness, dizziness, dark red gums, nausea and loss of consciousness. Cool the pet with lukewarm – not cold – water, and get him to the veterinarian right away.
Does your dog love swimming in the pool or riding on the family boat? Be sure he knows how to get out of the pool or onto the boat. Go into the pool with him and show him the stairs. Have someone else call him while he’s in different parts of the pool, and make sure he knows how to get to the steps and use them to get out.
Practice frequently. Consider purchasing a dog ramp for use in pools or on docks or boats. Place it at the opposite end of the pool from the steps so your dog has options. If possible, restrict the dog’s access to the pool or spa if you’re not there to supervise, especially if you have a pet with limited eyesight. Another option is a Safety Turtle pet kit, which will sound an alarm to alert you if your pet falls into the pool.
Beach and boat
Playing in the waves is a quintessential beach dog activity, but bodysurfing dogs can incur knee injuries from the force of the waves. Keep your dog close to shore if waves are booming. Play fetch on hard-packed sand so your dog doesn’t ingest a lot of it when retrieving his ball or flying disc. Taking in too much sand can cause a serious intestinal obstruction. Whether your dog is riding with you on a stand-up paddle board or a more substantial craft, protect him from drowning with a pet life vest.
Choose one in a bright color that’s easily visible in the water. It should fit comfortably and have a handle on top for easy retrieval if your dog falls or jumps into the water. Just as you would with a pool, show him how to get out of the water.
On the trail
If you and your dog are out on a hot day, carry plenty of water for him and tie a cooling bandana around his neck. Take frequent breaks, and offer your dog water frequently. Dogs cool themselves by panting, which isn’t very efficient in hot or humid conditions. Now that you’re prepared, go out there and have fun!
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com. Dr. Becker can also be found at facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.