Summer Dangers for Dogs

05/17/2011

On those lazy, hazy days of summer, you naturally want to be outdoors more often. And, we often want to take our dogs along with us. The warmer weather tempts dog owners to get out there with their dog and play fetch, toss Frisbees, and take your buddy for car rides with the windows rolled down.

Yet dogs face serious risks when temperatures rise. One of the most common but preventable causes of heat stroke occurs when owners leave dogs in a hot car. And, it doesn't even have to be really hot outside. A car can reach super high temperatures in the short space of minutes, even in the shade, and surprisingly, even with the windows rolled down.

Heat stroke is the point at which your dog becomes too hot. Signs to look for in dehydration and heat stroke include tacky gums, panting, drooling, weakness, muscle tremors and even seizures.

"Their body temperature can go to 109 degrees," says Dean Henricks, DVM, president of the California Veterinary Medical Association in Sacramento, Calif. "Just before it gets to that point the dog starts to panic, passes out and goes into heat stroke."

Dr. Henricks advises owners to get them out of the car into fresh air and apply cool water to their body. Put cool water inside the ears, armpits and then soak the whole dog with water, water soaked towels or use a water hose. Don't force the dog to drink water, instead run cool water over the tongue.

People have sweat glands all over their bodies, but dogs have them only on their footpads. Panting is the primary way dogs lose body heat.

"Don't exercise your dog during the hottest parts of the day," says Bernardine Cruz, DVM, associate veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Woods, Calif. "Especially breeds that are respiratory challenged." This includes snub-nosed dogs, such as Pekinese, Shih Tzu, pugs, boxers, bulldogs, Boston terriers and Lhasa Apso dogs, as well as heavy coated, overweight and older dogs.

The best time of day to walk your dog is early morning, because the pavement hasn't heated up yet. There is an even better way to judge the danger, says Dr. Cruz. "Take your shoes off, stand on the blacktop and if it's too hot for you, it's too hot for your dog."

Dogs with sensitive skin can get sunburned. "If you have a white or thin coated dog, you might want to put waterproof sunscreen for babies on their ears, noses, on their back or if they sunbath on their back exposing their tummy, they can get skin cancer just like us," says Dr. Cruz. "Keep them out of the sun between the hours of 10 and 4."

If you plan on leaving your dog outside for any length of time, make sure he's well-equipped to survive and even thrive.

Dogs need the basics—water and shade. Make sure the water is in a container that is not easily tipped over. The container should either be weighted or fastened down. An automatic water system is good, but be sure your dog is willing to use it, and then teach him how to use it. And, test the device daily to make sure it works. 

"Too many times people will have a dog house that the dog doesn't want to use," says Dr. Cruz. "Or they'll stake out the dog on a tree, but since the earth moves around the sun, the shade will ultimately move. Dogs need access to shade all day long."

German Shepherd Shaking Off WaterSummer days may include trips to the beach, lake, ocean or your own backyard pool. When dogs are around water, it can be a dangerous situation for dogs. Dog owners need to be cautious as not all dogs can swim or know how to exit a pool or use a ladder to reenter a boat.

"If you are going to be boating, it's a good idea to make sure your dog wears a life jacket at all times," says Dr. Cruz. "Dogs can get tired. Some dogs, especially overweight ones, don't swim well at all."

To safely acclimate a dog to water, Dr. Cruz suggests using a small child's pool, toss tennis balls into the pool and watch his response. If you have a backyard pool, get into the pool and have your dog come to you. Never toss a dog into the pool, as it might scare him.

The idea of having your dog become comfortable with water depends on the dog breed and age. Labradors will just jump in, but some dogs might be afraid of the water. Don't force a dog to get into the water.

Pool water is treated with chemicals. If your dog drinks too much of this water, it could upset his stomach, plus the chemicals may dry sensitive skin. Don't overlook the need to rinse off your dog when he gets out of the pool.

If you love to hike in the woods or the mountains, and you want to take along the dog, you can have a successful adventure by planning ahead.

Dr. Henricks suggests, "If you're going to be out in the mountains and hills, get flea and tick prevention and heartworm medication due to the prevalence of mosquitoes.”

Take along a supply of water as dogs can get overheated, first-aid kit to treat cuts and scratches and watch out for foxtails as they can get into a dog's ears, eyes, nose, mouth and between the toes. If you will be hiking in rattlesnake country, take along rattlesnake vaccine from your veterinarian.

When you return from the hiking trail, inspect your entire dog, especially the toes and feet for foxtails.

If you are going on vacation and taking along the family dog, be sure to take along a copy of his vaccination records, including his rabies vaccination certificate signed by a veterinarian. In state parks it is required before you are allowed into the park with a dog. If your dog bites someone and you don't have the certificate, your dog will be put into quarantine.

In addition, take his medication along if he has a chronic ailment, a photograph of your dog in case he runs away, and make sure your dog is wearing his identification. Better still; have him micro-chipped before you leave on a trip.

Dog owners typically spend more time with their dogs during long summer days.

Dr. Henricks says, "We find more injuries with dogs during the summer months as more dogs are in the back of pickup trucks and fall out, and in the wild they get bitten by rattlesnakes. We see all types of injuries during the summer months."

Your dog relies on you to take good care of him. So exercise good judgment all year long, and especially during the summer when the dangers are greatest.

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