By Tracie Korol
This month’s spell of spring weather appears to be easing toward summertime sultry, steamy and mean. We’ll dress down, move slower and leave our dogs at home, right?
We’ve all experienced those very hot days when every pore in our body oozes sweat. Sweating is our body’s cooling mechanism; evaporation of the moisture on the skin cools the body. But dogs don’t sweat the way we do and their ability cool off is very limited. Their personal air conditioner is through the process of panting and breathing. When a dog pants, the air passing over the saliva in their mouths helps them cool. Their lining of their lungs serves as an evaporative surface, too and the blood vessels in their face, ears and feet expand to help dispel heat.
A dog’s body temperature is normally between 100.2º and 102.8ºF. If his cooling mechanisms are over-loaded and his temperature rises past 104º he can suffer from dehydration, heat cramps or heat stress. Past 104º and the dog is in serious trouble; over 106º heatstroke can occur. Heatstroke is life-threatening causing lethargy, weakness, collapse, seizure, coma, brain damage and even death. At 109º vital organs can shut down.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that’s it’s all preventable with a little common sense. Think about it: if you’re hot, your dog is hot, too. If it’s too hot for you to sit in a car without air conditioning, it’s too hot for your dog. If it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot across a parking lot or the sand, it’s too hot for your dog. He’s barefoot, too. If you’re sweaty and thirsty, your dog is too. Let’s remember, he’s upholstered in fur and he can’t sweat. Here are some common sense reminders for summertime dog safety:
1. Never leave your dog in a car on a warm day. Not for a minute for that quickie errand; not ever. Never.
2. When it’s hot outside, bring your dog inside. If you need A/C, chances are your dog does, too.
3. Never confine your dog or leave him crated in the sun. It becomes an oven. Use caution leaving a crated dog under an awning, too. The sun moves during the day and a shady spot can become sun-baked in a short period of time.
4. Provide rest breaks in the shade and plenty of fresh water (not found water) on all outdoor excursions.
5. Avoid overexertion on hot or humid days. Even if your dog generally joins you for a walk or run, extreme temperatures call for a change in routine. You may want the full benefit from a drenching run across the bridge mid-day; it is torture for your dog.
6. A dip in cool water is the best way to beat the heat for dogs and people, too. Get your dog a hard-sided kiddie pool or provide water play with sprinkler and hose games. You can drape your dog in a wet T-shirt or adorn him with a wet, chilled bandana on a steamy afternoon.
7. At the beach be sure to provide a cool place — on a towel, under an umbrella — for your dog, too.
8. Limit sun exposure during the mid-day hours and use an animal-safe sunscreen on dogs with pink noses or exposed skin.
9. Be especially careful with obese, older or high-risk dogs.
Expert recommendations vary on whether to clip a dog’s coat to assist with heat management. The ASPCA suggests that thinning or trimming a double-coated dog can help, but don’t shave the dog! Leave at least an inch of coat to provide insulation and protection from sunburn. I’ve always recommended trimming away belly fur so a dog can make maximum contact with a cool tile floor.
And finally, please leave your Best Friend at home this summer’s festival season. He’ll be happier waiting at home, lounging on the A/C vent.
By Tracie Korol