By Dr. Laura Hady
Summer is infinitely more fun with pets. Families tend to have additional time to spend outside and take their dogs with them. Communities come together for celebratory events, dogs romping right along with the children. Freedom and frolic abound.
It all sounds idyllic, but there are flip sides to the fantasy. These include heat, loud noises, and unusual conditions that can be dangerous for our furry friends. To help keep your dogs safe, I have compiled five tips for the whole family to enjoy summer, while taking some basic precautions.
- Wind, thunderstorms, and fireworks can increase anxiety in our pets, leading them to destructive behaviors that cause damage to themselves and our homes, or leading them to try to escape yards. My dog, Minnie, jumped our 6-foot fence (with the help of some objects nearby) on three occasions last summer due to thunderstorms that occurred when we left our home for fewer than two hours. Luckily, she was not hit by a car, and her friendly nature enabled her to find a nearby home to take her in, check her collar ID, and call us. (Please also remember to board your pets or arrange for a trained caregiver to be with them if you will be out of town during this summer.)
- Check with your veterinarian about some safe over-the-counter and prescription medicine that can help lower anxiety caused by loud noises, if your pets are susceptible. Give them the medicine about two hours before any anticipated loud event, and try to stay home to calm them. Behavioral techniques include use of a “thunder shirt”, placement of a crate or use of a “safe” area close to the center of the house, playing calming music, or using the white noise of a fan. Dogs often feed on our emotions, so if we are comfortable, then they tend to feel safe as well.
- Walk your pet and work outside early in the morning or later in the evening. The temperatures of asphalt, sand, and gravel can increase dramatically in the heat of the day. Remember, if it is too hot for your feet on the surface, it is too hot for your pets’ feet.
- Dogs that get heat stress/heat stroke tend to have shorter noses, a more muscular body type, underlying health issues, and are exposed to certain environmental factors. The most likely breeds to suffer from heat stroke are the English bulldog, the French bulldog, boxers, and pit bulls, but I have also seen heat stroke in Labrador retrievers. Environmental factors that tend to play a role include high altitude, humidity, physical exertion, and extreme heat, such as when left in an automobile. Any dog left in a hot vehicle – essentially, an oven – can not only suffer from heat stroke but also die.
- Monitor your pet for excessive panting; more drooling than normal; the tongue becoming dark red, hanging out and taking on a spade-like shape; pale gums; weakness; and collapse. Please do not use ice baths or cold-water enemas. Taking your pet’s temperature rectally – it should be below 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit – wetting down your pup with a garden hose, and placing your pet near a fan are the first steps you should take until you can get your pet to your veterinarian or to an emergency veterinary hospital.
- Since not all dogs can swim or enjoy the water, make sure your pup has the physical and mental ability to dog paddle, or place him/her in a life vest near water. If your pup should fall in and show signs of struggle, only attempt CPR on your dog if you are trained and are careful to avoid being bitten when the animal recovers. CPR classes are taught through the Red Cross in Albuquerque and by some area veterinarians.
Most of all, have fun. You might even try making a special frozen treat for your furry friend: www.k9ofmine.com/the-seven-best-dog-ice-cream-recipes.