By Tricia Del Sorbo, Senior Behavior Counselor - CPDT-KA
Cheers! With the weather warming up you are probably looking for ways to spend time with your furry friends outdoors. In this blog, we will talk about ways to keep them safe as we enjoy their company and the summer heat. If we are knowledgeable about the dangers, we can put worry aside and have some fun!
One of the main dangers to watch out for is Heat Stroke
What is Heat Stroke?
Heat stroke is when a dog is not able to keep its body temperature within a safe range of 101–102.5 degrees. Unlike humans, dogs cool themselves through panting and can only sweat through their paws. Moderate heat stroke (104-106 degrees) can be regulated by a veterinarian within an hour if given treatment and first aid. Severe heat stroke (106 degrees or higher) can be deadly.
There are many products on the market today to help avoid overheating. Cooling vests are helpful for long walks and cooling mats are a great cool place for your dog to lay. Try a cooling mat next time you are eating at an outdoor café! For those strap-hangers, like myself, find a cooling mat for the interior of your carrier. It can go a long way in the heat of the subway platform.
Note: cooling aids are not a substitute for water and only provided limited relief. Offer your pup water at every given opportunity and keep them out of direct sunlight/heat for a prolonged period of time.
Symptoms of heat stroke:
- Sweaty, hot paws.
- Rapid Panting
- Bright red tongue
- Red or pale gums
- Thick or sticky saliva
What should you do if you suspect heat stroke?
If you suspect even mild heat stroke, remove the dog from heat and provide a cool space for them to lie. Pour cool (not cold) water over them and provide a fan if possible. Consider a vet check up to rule out long term damage.
During days that are particularly hot, leave the AC on to ensure the temperature in your home is regulated while you are away. Always provide your pup with water, limit vigorous activity and play in heat, and keep your dogs indoors during the hottest times of the day. Remember, if it is too hot for you, it is too hot for them and they cannot take off their coats.
Trick: Always carry a 4oz travel bottle of water. Use it to wet a cloth (or anything absorbent) and place the cloth over the head, neck and ears. If you are carrying a cold beverage, the condensation can be used to wet a napkin.
Training Tip: Get your dog accustomed to having water gently poured over their back, ears and paws.
Hot pavement is not something we often think about. Our feet are protected by our shoes but our dogs’ are not. Pavement, asphalt and metal can reach blistering temperatures, especially in direct sunlight. This can cause serious burns to the pads of your dog’s paws, resulting in pain, possible negative associations, high vet bills, and lengthy recovery periods.
If you want to make sure the pavement is cool enough for your dog to walk on, place the back of your hand on the pavement. If you can keep it there for 5 seconds, it is cool enough for your dog to walk on. The same rules apply here: If it is too hot for you, it is too hot for your pup. Metal will heat up much faster than pavement so consider avoiding walking your dogs over metal plates in the road or metal grates on the sidewalk. On very hot days, try putting cooling booties on your dog. This can provide the extra protection they need.
Trick: Walk your dogs in shadowed or shady areas of the sidewalk. Carry them over metal or tar. Walk quickly.
Training Tip: Teach your dog to accept paw handling and booties.
Most of us know about how dangerous cars can be for dogs because of how quickly they heat up. We do not recommend leaving your dog unattended in a car for any length of time. For those owners with separation anxiety dogs; forgo the trip and reschedule until you have a sitter or can drop off at daycare. It is not worth risking your dog’s life.
On car rides, remember to buckle up your furry friend just like yourself. This is for their protection and yours! A loose dog is a likely distraction to the driver. There are numerous harnesses, buckles and carriers that will secure your pup during travel time. Never secure your pup by the collar on long rides.
Pools/large bodies of water
Although pools can be a lot of fun and a great way for you and your dog to stay cool in the heat, they can also be dangerous. In some cases, dogs who have jumped or fallen into a pool, do not know how to get out. They can end up swimming until exhausted.
When introducing your dog to a pool, the first thing to do is teach them how to exit the pool on their own.
Of course, prevention and management is key to safety. Keep all gates around the pool closed and make sure to monitor your dogs when they are loose around a body of water.
Trick: Have your dog enter the pool the same way they should exit. Build an exit if one does not exist. Make a game of getting out of the pool.
Training Tip: Make sure to spend the time familiarizing them with their exit. Use food or toy rewards.
Sometimes when dogs are excited or stressed, they can forget or refuse to drink water. Dehydration is a particular concern in the summer, not just because of the heat, but because we’re all having too much fun for water breaks!
Some symptoms of dehydration include:
- Dry mouth, gums or tongue
- Sunken eyes
- Heavy panting
- Behavioral changes, including lethargy, sullenness
- Loss of balance
- Lack of desire to eat or drink.
One quick way to check for dehydration is skin elasticity. You can check your dog’s skin elasticity by lifting the skin between the dog’s shoulder blades. If the skin does not return to its original position after 3 seconds, your dog may be dehydrated.
Another way to test is to slightly press down on your dog’s gums. The capillaries should refill quickly turning from white back to the original pink color. Again, if this takes longer than three seconds, your dog may be dehydrated.
There are many versions of the collapsible/travel water bowls on the market. Find the one that best suits you and your pup.
Trick: Allow them to lick the condensation off your cold cup/glass. If you have a beverage that contains ice, clean the ice and offer it to your pup (yes, clean means suck on the ice first).
Training tip: Teach your dog to drink water out of your hand, a glass, a poop bag, a bottle or bottle cap or even using a straw.
Ticks are projected to be in dangerously high numbers this season. Ticks can spread Lyme disease and other nasty illnesses.
- Use a monthly tick prevention
- Vaccinate for Lyme
- Use tick collars for extra safety
- Keep your dogs away from tall grass
- Complete a tick check after every romp in the grass
- Learn how to remove a tick properly
- Speak to your vet about Lyme disease if you find a tick on your friend
Trick: prevention, prevention, prevention. Check your pup everyday if he/she plays in grassy areas. A tick comb or brush can help.
Training tip: teach your dog to allow handling in between toes, ears, groin, tail and tummy. This is especially important to teach before the age of 12 weeks while your puppy is in its’ socialization stage. Older dogs can learn this too but it will take more patience on the part of the handler.
Enjoy your summer. Enjoy your best friend. Stay Safe!