Summer temperatures rise, and, like you, your dog can literally get hot under the collar.
Animal experts say keeping your canine safe during dog days takes minimal effort, and can make the difference between physical comfort and outright dangerous conditions.
The dog owner’s emphasis should be on finding it a cool place to chill out and giving it fresh bowls of food and water, said Dr. Tasha Small, a veterinarian with Pondview Veterinary Clinic in Archbold. With those instructions in mind, the clinic could avoid the five to 10 cases of heat-related pet illness they encounter each year, which is a low percentage.
“We try to educate our owners, and teach them not to have that stuff happen. Most of our clients are really good,” Dr. Small said.
Dogs need to stay out of direct sunlight on hot days, or their body temperature can rise dangerously, she said. A dog’s normal internal temperature is about 101 degrees; a temperature of 107 degrees or more can result in brain damage.
The internal temperature goes up, and it cascades from there,” Dr. Small said.
Since dogs have no sweat glands, they perspire out of their paws. Dr. Small suggested wetting them down or placing rubbing alcohol on their paw pads to cool them down. They also should have access to a fan or air conditioning.
It’s all right to keep them outside, as long as they have shade from the sun and are provided fresh water to drink, she said, adding, “An animal without water is a stressed animal.”
If possible, she suggested, give the dog the run of a small pool, where they can splash and play and keep ahead of the heat. Dogs that are tied up in the yard should be constantly supervised to allow for play time and to ensure they don’t get overcome by warm weather.
Flat-faced, short-nosed breeds may be especially susceptible to heat, since they have a smaller trachea and a shortened respiratory system. They can quickly hyperventilate in warm weather, and should remain in a place cooled by a fan or air conditioning.
“With those dogs, you can’t be too safe,” Dr. Small said.
Mallory Kerley, a spokesperson for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said, like humans, dogs need shade and hydration during summer months. When overheated they exhibit symptoms such as excessive panting, drooling, dark or bright red gums or tongue, lethargy, stumbling, bloody diarrhea, an increased heart rate, and even collapse.
Don’t exercise a dog during the hottest part of a summer day, and under no circumstances leave a dog in a car, even if the windows are cracked, Kerley said. She said in those conditions a dog can quickly succumb to heat stroke.
American Humane Association spokesperson Mark Stubis said dog owners may not realize their pets still wear remnants of their winter coats during summer months, and are limited to how well they can keep cool.
“Many people forget that pets are affected by heat much more quickly than humans are, and that leaving a pet in a car for just a minute can have a deadly outcome,” he said by email.
To that end, dog owners should exercise their pets during cooler hours of a summer day. “That will allow them to acclimate to the sometimes sudden increases in daily temperatures,” Stubis said.
Your canine pets also should remain in grass when outside, Dr. Small advised. Hot asphalt and concrete can easily burn the pads on a dog’s feet. Indoor dogs should not be subjected long to hot outside conditions.
Dr. Small recommended that dogs, especially those that remain outside, also maintain a course of flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Fleas can act as intermediate hosts for tapeworms, which can become a chronic complaint. Heartworm can be transferred by mosquitoes, and can cause vomiting.
Owners should also be mindful that pets who get wet can develop sores under their collars where their skin is routinely rubbed.
And yes, Dr. Small said, an Internet warning that giving dogs ice in their water or to chew on can leading to bloating and death is not factual. She said the case reported was probably a fluke, and more attributable to the dog inhaling large amounts of air while eating, which is a more common problem. That can cause the stomach to twist, which can require surgery to correct.
Pondview Veterinary Clinic sees three to six cases like that annually. “For them to bloat their stomach, they have to take in a lot of air,” Dr. Small said.
She feeds her dog ice during the summer, and said, “He loves it. Ice is fine.”
Kerley agrees. She said the biggest risk with giving dogs ice is the possibility it can break the teeth of those that chew aggressively.
Stubis said it’s important for dog owners to simply remember to take precautions when it comes to man’s best friend.
“Summer is fun for people and pets, but because of the heat you need to make it safe, too,” he said.