CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The summer is a great fun time but its also a time when we need to think about the safety and care of our pets. Dr. Jim Dobies from Urgentvet has some ideas of how to make life easier for our pets in the summertime.
"Dogs face a variety of problems in the summer" says Dobies. Most problems in summer are related to being active outdoors and coping with the heat. It's best to always keep your dog on a leash and exercise outside only in the morning or evening when the sun is not as intense. If you lay the back of your hand on the pavement and it's too hot to touch, then it's too hot for your dog's paws. Walk them in the grass or in shady areas outside direct sunlight. Avoid taking short-nosed dogs (brachycephalics) like bulldogs, and pugs, outside for extended periods when the temp is above 80 degrees. These breeds cannot regulate body temperature very well when it's hot and they are particularly susceptible to heat stroke. And NEVER leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle in the summer.
Heat stroke is dangerous in the summer. Dogs can't sweat to cool themselves. Heat radiates from their ears and paws, and they pant to blow off excessive heat. If it's too hot or they have a medical problem that interferes with blowing off heat, their body temperature can rise quickly. Temps greater than 105 F for an extended period can be life-threatening. If your dog is panting excessively after being outdoors and cannot seem to calm down when back in the air conditioning, you need to take some steps to cool them down. First, blow cool air on their faces. Apply cool (not cold) water to their ear flaps and to all four paw pads. Offer them small amounts of cool water to drink every few minutes. If they continue to pant heavily for more than 10 to 15 minutes, call your veterinarian for help.
Should we leave a dog's coat long in the summer or shave them down and do dogs need to wear sunscreen? Generally, dogs are adapted to the length of their coats and their bodies compensate for both heat and cold. However, we now have a lot of purebred dogs and mixes whose ancestry was not intended to live in subtropical environments i.e, the Siberian husky. If you own a breed with a thick, insulating coat, talk to your vet and your groomer about summertime grooming options. Most dogs now live inside in air-conditioned comfort. There is little downside to shaving them down in the summer if it makes them more comfortable when they are outdoors. By the time it's cold again, the coat will have grown back. Sunscreen can be helpful in dogs with fair skin on their faces and ears. Dobie says “Talk to your vet about safe options if your dog fits this description and spends a lot of outdoor time with you.” For more information visit urgentvet.com.