Sherry Davis

Saturday, Jul 09 2011 12:00 PM

SHERRY DAVIS: Keep dogs cool during long, hot summer

By Sherry Davis

People don't always use their common sense, and dogs don't have any.

That's why it's important for us to think about worst-case scenarios when it comes to our dogs' health and safety in hot weather.

* First of all, know your dog. If you have elderly, overweight, or flat-faced breeds, they are going to suffer more on hot days.

While many dogs, in fact many breeds, simply can't tolerate heat, others, outside of increased panting, seem to be indifferent to it.

But even the most tolerant have their limits, and it's up to us to use common sense to protect them from the heat.

* My dogs go everywhere with me, but in summer, car trips are limited and I always carry plenty of fresh water, a battery-operated fan, and an awning that hooks on to my van to create shade.

Overkill?

As a person with common sense and/or a regular reader of this column, you already know better than to leave your dog in a hot car.

But are you prepared to keep your dog comfortable in the event your car breaks down on a hot day? What are the odds of that happening in a shady area?

And let's not forget dogs that ride in the back of pick-ups. Yes, they have the wind blowing through their hair, but they're also standing or sitting in full sun, breathing exhaust fumes, and the scorching heat under the truck can turn the metal bed into a griddle, burning their pads, genitals or other areas not protected by hair.

* When the temps go over 100 degrees, the pipes in my house get hot. The dogs won't use the automatic waterer outside so they are only drinking from the bowls in the house. Every morning I fill several bottles from the tap while it is still cool, and periodically toss ice cubes into their water.

* Outside it is important to place water bowls in the shade and make sure they are changed several times a day.

Many dogs will not drink if the water is warm, slimy, or dirty. Water is not only important for hydration, but also to help the dog's self-cooling mechanism (panting) to work properly.

Bowls or buckets should be secured so they can't accidentally be knocked over by rambunctious youngsters.

A great solution in the heat is a child's wading pool that a dog can sit or stand in. But make sure it is not placed on a dirt surface. You'll only make this mistake once.

Optionally, a mister system placed in a shady area can lower the temperature by 10 degrees or more.

* Most dogs will instinctively seek out the coolest spot in the house like a tiled bathroom or kitchen floor, and if you don't have air-conditioning, a fan set at floor level (keep cords out of the reach of chewers!) will help to keep the air circulating.

* Aside from potty-breaks, walks should be done in the coolest part of the day, and use extreme caution on days with high humidity.

Carry water and try to stick to shady areas since a dog's pads can be badly burned by hot pavement.

There are bandannas and jackets available for dogs that have inserts for cold packs or ice and are comfortable to wear.

* A long-haired dog does not have to be cut down to keep it cool. In double-coated dogs, once the undercoat blows and has been groomed out, the harsh outer coat serves as insulation.

But if you do clip your dog's hair down short and it spends time outside, its skin can become sunburned and you may need to apply sunscreen made specifically for dogs. Human sunscreen is toxic.

If you keep your dogs' coat long, make sure it is brushed and combed regularly to allow air to reach the skin. A dog whose coat is matted and tangled feels much like you would wearing a wool coat on a hot day.

* Many dogs have such high prey-drive or are so willing to accompany their owners that they will run, retrieve or hike until they drop.

Healthy, high-activity dogs are not immune to the effects of heat stress, and may over-exercise causing vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration or collapse.

* If you are boarding your dog while on vacation, visit the facility on a hot day in advance of your trip to see where the dogs are kenneled and discuss your dog's specific needs.

It's up to us to use common sense and good judgment to keep our dogs cool during the long, hot summer.

Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at doglady@bakersfield.com or follow her on Twitter @csi4k9s. These are her opinions and not necessarily The Californian's.

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