7 steps to protect 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.

Here’s how to protect your dog this summer.

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 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 your dog’s normal heartbeat and respirations

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 cooldown is. 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 the 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 the 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 need 3-4 hours to cool out, depending on their fitness level. 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 are vital. You can leave a bowl of water or a kiddie pool outside. Some people carry a spray bottle to wet down the dog’s mouths, paws, and heads. Even with a water supply and shade, we recommend that the dog be kept inside or 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 heatstroke.

6. Dogs can burn their pads

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 the 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 undercoats, 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.

By taking these steps, you can keep your dog safe and comfortable and protect your dog this summer.

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