Fun in the sun with Rover
Here comes summer, the lazy hazy, crazy days of summer. It's too darn hot, but the livin' is easy. There's cheeseburgers in paradise, and Rover's waiting for his share.
While the family enjoys the warmth of summer sun and the softness of summer evenings, Rover may be suffering from the heat or from overindulgence of leftovers. To avoid tragedy, families should consider the effects of increased day length, temperatures, and snacks-after-the-barbecue on the family pet. Livin' with Rover can be easy if you heed these warm-weather cautions and follow these tips.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are distinct possibilities if the dog is subjected to high temperatures in poorly ventilated areas, including cars (even with the windows cracked open), sheds, or other enclosures. Dogs dissipate body heat by panting, not sweating, and rapid panting causes increased loss of water and carbon dioxide. If the dog is stressed by high temperatures and humidity and poor ventilation, his circulatory and respiratory systems can be overtaxed.
Heat stroke is the most common and most likely to be fatal. Symptoms are: panting; staring; warm, dry skin; extremely high fever (106 degrees or higher); rapid heartbeat; vomiting; and collapse. Treatment includes immersion in cold water. If no tub is handy, spraying the dog with the hose is the next best action. Ice packs applied to the head and neck may also help. Heat stroke is life-threatening; get the dog to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible after lowering his temperature.
Heat exhaustion is less serious and generally follows heavy and prolonged exercise in intense heat. It develops more slowly than heat stroke and may be preceded by a salt deficiency or a complication of heart disease. The treatment is the same: lower the temperature with cold water, then get the dog to the clinic.
Here are some tips for helping you and Rover enjoy the warm weather:
- Never leave children under eight years old alone with a dog. Kids run and scream while playing, and high-pitched noises and running can trigger Buddy's prey drive. Whether Buddy responds by “herding” the child with ankle nips and body slams or by “attacking” and grabbing, children get hurt and Buddy gets a black mark on his record.
- Dogs can be irritable in hot weather and should be protected from kids' boisterous attentions.
- Groups of kids may tease Rover or inadvertently let him out of the yard.
- Crawling babies can get into dog dishes and steal dog toys. Avoid trouble by keeping baby and Roughy apart unless you can supervise.
- Errant baseballs, tennis balls, and other toys can find their way into Rover's yard. Make sure that all neighborhood kids know to knock on your door before entering the yard — or padlock the gate so they cannot get in. Dogs that are protecting their property don't know the difference between an intruder and a child trying to find his ball or Frisbee.
- Since doors are open more often in warm weather, Mom and Dad should take precautions to keep Ranger from following the kids outside if he can then run free. Several approaches will work, from teaching the children to make sure the pooch is confined before they open the door to locking the screen door so the little ones cannot open it themselves. If Mom has to open the door for the kids, she can make sure Ranger is under control and can't escape to get hit by a car or wreak havoc on the neighbor's lawn or shrubs.
- Teacher Ranger to "sit-stay" will also help. If he learns to sit and stay until someone tells him it is OK to go through the door, chances are he'll wait. This command is most helpful when someone is coming into the house, as the approaching person will block the dog's path of exit and he'll be more likely to stay put.
- It's too much for a young dog to be told to "sit-stay" in front of a door that's opening outward, though, especially when the kids are headed outside. The motion and excitement entice him and he'll probably bolt. However, if he has a leash on, you can step on it and control the situation.
- No one wants their outdoor party ruined by noisy dogs, so open windows present another challenge if Buster is a barker. The easiest solution is to let him join the festivities as long as he's well behaved. If he's a food thief or a nudge, or if he'll pester the kids, this might not work. However, if he's allowed to play a game of fetch or Frisbee and then told to "down-stay" during dinner, his company could add to the fun.
- If Buster is a barker and is ill-behaved, sign up for an obedience school. After all, he cannot be expected to know what he has not been taught!
- If Rambo is an outdoor dog, make sure he has shelter from sun and rain and always has a bucket of fresh water. Dogs have a higher internal body temperature than humans and get warm at lower temperatures than we do. Since they cannot shed their coats and they do not sweat, they pant away a lot of moisture during warm weather and must have constant access to fresh water. Puddles won't do it, and neither will three-day-old tepid water with a layer of pond scum.
- Avoid strenuous exercise in the heat of the day if the dog has not been conditioned for the strain. Take walks in the early morning or evening; limit vigorous play sessions; and provide plenty of fresh water. If Roughy spends a lot of time in air-conditioned splendor, heat and humidity will be tough on his body — it's better for him (and for you) to limit the use of air-conditioning. If he's an outdoor dog, make sure he has well-ventilated shelter from direct sun and plenty of fresh water.
- Remember that heat and humidity are more stressful for puppies, geriatric dogs, dogs that are overweight or out of condition, dogs with chronic illnesses, and dogs with shortened faces such as Boxers, English Bulldogs, Pekingese, and French Buldogs.
- Don't make the mistake of thinking a long-coated or thick coated dog should be shaved for summer. Long, thick coats developed to provide insulation in both cold and hot weather, and removal of the natural insulation could stress the dog further. Do make sure long and thick coats are kept free of mats, tangles, burs and other seeds, etc. to help maintain Rover's comfort.
- If Sassy finds the family cookout, don't feed her leftover burgers, brats, or hotdogs. She could bloat, suffer a stomach torsion, and die. Bloat and torsion are serious, life-threatening illnesses, and the incidence rises in summer precisely because dogs have access to barbecue leavings. Symptoms include extreme restless, unproductive vomiting, a bloated appearance, and collapse. The disease progresses quickly; a dog that has stomach torsion can die on the way to the emergency clinic.
- If you or your adjoining neighbor hire a lawn service, make sure Pansy stays inside while pesticides are sprayed. Keep her off the sprayed grass for at least 24 hours to avoid contact with the chemicals or clean her feet so she doesn't ingest poison if she licks her paws.
- If Mister travels with the family, don't ever, ever, leave him in the car alone, even with the windows cracked open. If you park in the shade, remember that shade moves as the day progresses. The temperature inside a closed car can quickly reach 120 degrees -- even with the window cracked open -- and cook the dog's brain.
- If you must leave the dog in the car for a few minutes, use window grills so the windows can be left open, park in the deepest shade you can find, put a reflective space blanket over the windshield, and hot-foot it back to the car in less than 15 minutes. Otherwise, leave Mister home.
- A crate is a perfect solution for those who would like to take Misty along on the family picnic, the kids' soccer game, or the concert in the park. A collapsible crate can be set up in seconds and provide a safe place for Misty while the family enjoys the event. If Misty is obedience-trained, she can do a down-stay on the blanket during the concert.
- The crate is great if you take Peanut on vacation. Motels are more likely to accept dogs in a crate and dogs are more likely to feel at home if they have their own bed along. If you do take Peanut along, make sure you clean up her feces, don't let her pee in the flower beds, don't clean the mud off her feet with motel towels, and don't bathe her in the motel tub. Bring along plenty of plastic bags, Mutt Mitts, or a poop scoop for cleaning up waste, and bring towels from home for muddy paws.
- Lots of dogs like to run through the sprinkler or swim in a pool, lake, or pond. If a large body of water isn't available, some dogs enjoy a dip in a child's wading pool. Most dogs enjoy a game of fetch or Frisbee played in the cool morning or evening hours.
- Keep your canine first aid kit packed and ready for action, and have the telephone numbers of your veterinarian and an emergency clinic handy just in case. Accidents, insect stings, dog fights, and heat stroke can require immediate attention.
- Many dogs will eat less in hot, humid weather. If Ranger leaves some food behind, throw it away, wash the dish, and feed less until the temperature drops.
More Warm weather tips
- When you're home on summer vacation, spend some time playing with your dog and making sure he is as comfortable as possible on hot, humid days.
- Give him plenty of fresh, cool water.
- Walk him in the morning or evening, and always keep him on a leash.
- Brush his coat and check for fleas, ticks, and debris in his hair.
- Give him a child's wading pool to splash or lie in if he likes water.
- Limit games active games to the cooler hours of the day.
- Remember that heat and humidity are especially stressful on dogs that have shortened muzzles, heavy coats, black fur, or spend most of their days in air-conditioned splendor.
- Be aware that short-coated white or cream-colored dogs can get sunburned, especially on their ears and around their noses.
Norma Bennett Woolf