Dog Days of Summer

It’s Hot! Damned Hot!

Everyone with any brain at all is completely familiar with the risks of leaving a dog or a child in a hot car during the summer. The news lately has been absolutely horrifying in this area. However there are many other hot weather-related risks for dogs (and kids, and cats, and you) at this time of year.

One a lot of folks seem to forget is the heat of the pavement on their dogs’ poor unprotected feet. We walk in shoes (or sandals), dogs only have their tough pads to protect themselves from the heat of the pavement. It does not take long for their feet to build up a lot of heat, and there is very little opportunity to cool them off. Please make a point of walking your dog on the grass as much as possible during these hot days. Even in the evening the pavement will often be holding a lot of heat from the day. At this time of year we see dogs who have literally burned their feet walking along sidewalks and roadways. Even the gravel border of a road can become an issue. And don’t forget about that hot sand at the beach… chase your buddy into the water regularly when at the beach, just to get those feet cooled off.

The next big one is heat-stroke. Yes, dogs suffer from that too, particularly those with dark coloured coats. Dogs have a very limited ability to sweat, so excess heat is a real challenge for them. Dogs must always have access to shade when they are outdoors as well as fresh water that is also kept in the shade. It is hard to cool off when you have to drink hot water to rehydrate yourself. Allowing them access to a pool, like a wading pool full of water is a good idea too. Make sure you keep topping it up with cold water from the hose though, it will heat up quickly.

Dogs with heat-stroke will be very lethargic, drooling heavily (unless they are really far gone and are too dehydrated to do so), often laying on their side and panting rapidly and deeply. Their gums will generally be a very dark red in colour. These dogs need to be cooled down immediately. The shock of cold water at this point however can kill them. Get them to a vet as soon as possible, preferably in an air-conditioned vehicle and not in your lap.

Dehydration can occur quickly at this time of year as well. In this weather dogs have an increased need for water just like we do. Luckily for them their reduced ability to sweat means that they need less than we do. Please check their water often through the day and keep it topped up.

Then of course comes the “car thing”. PLEASE, PLEASE leave your buddy home during this time of year unless you plan on leaving the air-conditioning on at all times in the car. That means even those short errands should be done alone. Try it yourself… sit in your car in the sun with the windows cracked for even 2 minutes and feel yourself how incredibly hot it gets.

A little common-sense applied during these “dog days of summer” goes a long way in protecting your best friend, yourself and your children.

Dr. Michael Steen
Hillcrest Animal Hospital
July, 2013