7 steps to protecting your dog this summer

Summer is here, and so is the heat.  You can help prevent several heat related dog issues by just following these steps.

1. LEARN HOW TO CHECK YOUR DOG’S TEMPERATURE. Learn how to check your dog for a rough temperature by sticking your finger down inside of the ear. Feel the inside of the ear at different times, after you’ve been inside, in the evening, am, and then feel it after you’ve been out walking for a while. If it’s tangibly warm to the touch, the dog is too hot.

2. LEARN WHAT YOUR DOG’S NORMAL HEART BEAT AND RESPIRATIONS ARE. Buy a stethoscope from your local pharmacy. Listen to your dog’s heart (left side of the rib cage). Count the beats over a 15 second count and multiply by four. Count your dog’s respirations by looking at his side go in and out. Count pulse and respiration after a walk. Check it 15 minutes later, 1/2 hr., 1 hr…..learn what your animal’s rate of cool down are. Heartbeat and respiration should not be hanging high an hour later.

If you want to get fancy, learn what normal capillary refill time is in the gums of your dog. Normal is usually one second. Open the mouth, press your
thumb to the gum, let go, count how long it takes for the white where you pressed to disappear. A two or 3 on capillary refill time indicates sluggish circulation and overheating.

Also check what’s normal in their eyes — red eyeballs may be a capillary response, again the body’s attempt to cool down.

If you have a slick coated dog you can pull skin away from the neck and count how long (right away) it takes to spring back. If skin starts tenting
and not springing back — you’ve got a serious dehydration problem.

3. LIMIT TIME IN THE SUN. A half hour is a lot depending on how hot it is. An hour of rambunctious activity in the heat can really push a dog to
needing 3-4 hours to cool out, depending on their level of fitness. Even if you have a dog that thinks baking outside is just fine, still override them and bring them in.

4. KEEP A WATER SUPPLY OUTSIDE. Lots of water is also important. If the dog MUST be outside, lots and lots of water and shade is vital. You can leave a bowl of water or a kiddie pool outside. Some people carry a spray bottle to wet down mouths, paws and heads of the dog. Even with a water supply and shade, I recommend that the dog be kept inside or at least have access to the inside or air conditioning somehow.

5. COOL DOWN YOUR DOG. Animals disperse heat through the venal return system of the blood. (Think, inside of the legs and belly, and underside of the neck.) Part of the dog’s thermostat mechanism is at the base of the brain. What does this mean, and how does this into summer protocol? After a walk hose down your dog. Starting at the back of the head and top of the head go down the spinal column and then a quick spray down the belly and the inside of the legs, and under the tail. I’ll leave the danger warning signs to the vets and their recommended protocol for heat stroke.

6. DOGS CAN BURN THEIR PAWS. Feel the pavement or surface your dog is going to be on. Don’t put your dog into a metal pick-up bed. Check the temperature of the pavement. Many times the pavement is just too hot for dogs. Walk your dog early in the morning or late in the evening. There are booties for all sizes of dogs. If you’re going to be doing a lot of pavement walking in summertime — use them. You can also coat your dog’s paws with a product like Musher’s Secret to help protect them.

7. CONSIDER YOUR DOG’S COAT. Some people think they should shave the dog for comfort. Care must be taken that they don’t end up with a sunburned dog. If the dog is matted, or if the dog has a lot of dead undercoat, it will make the dog hot. If the undercoat is kept thoroughly brushed out, and the coat is kept matt-free, then it can act as insulation from both the heat and cold.
Heat is something we have to deal with in dogs. Pretty much whatever you’d do for a human, you should double for the dog because dogs are not very efficient at getting rid of heat or cooling off easily.
Thanks to: Kim Walker
Cactus Canine Center &
Tucson, AZ

Andrea Eardley, MA
Canine Behavior Modification
Columbus/Plain City, Ohio

Tawni McBee, PDTI
Senior trainer, Animal Attitudes Dog Training