Summer is a time for outdoor fun for you and your pet ... but it also brings its share of dangers. Exposing your dog to excessive sun and heat can lead to sunburned skin or worse. Protect your best friend's well-being with these season-savvy tips.
Strange though it may seem, dogs can get sunburn and even skin cancer. Particularly susceptible are canines with short hair; pink noses or fur loss due to illness, hormonal fluctuations or allergy. The lightly furred inguinal area on the belly is extremely vulnerable. Keep your pet out of strong sunlight as much as possible and use sunscreen especially made for dogs. Be very careful with a dog that normally lives outside – even though your yard may be shady when you leave for work in the morning, it might become blistering hot as the sun’s direction changes. If despite your precautions, your BFF does get burnt, cool the skin with a lukewarm bath; then apply natural neem oil. Caution: never use zinc oxide on a dog, as it is toxic to canines.
Walking, running and general outdoor romps with your pet are all part of the pleasure of owning a dog. Steamy summer days mean that you and Fido will have to modify your workout routine, though. Overexertion in the heat can lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke for your four-legged friend. Schedule long walks for breezier early morning or evening hours. Alternatively, use outdoor time for short bathroom breaks, followed up with more active exercise indoors where it’s cooler. Or take your pup for a swim – under your careful supervision. Learn to read doggy signals in the heat; refusal to move or lying down on the ground mean that he or she has had enough for the time being.
When you do go for walks, try to make sure your dog has grass or dirt underfoot if possible. Protect tender paws from hot asphalt or sand with lightweight dog booties or one of the barrier creams for year-round use that are made from food grade wax. (Make sure any ointment or other topical treatment is edible, because chances are your dog will lick it.) Some owners actually put their pooch into a dog stroller until they arrive at the park or other cool destination.
Wherever you’re headed, bring along plenty of water for Rover as well as yourself, together with a comfortable container for your pet to sip small amounts of water from. Don’t allow your pet to gulp, as this may cause vomiting. Use a tip-proof drinking bowl in the car. In the yard, leave out a full water dish but change it regularly to prevent mosquito infestation; you can give the old water to your plants. A gravity fed water bowl is another excellent solution.
There are a number of accessories to help your pal beat the heat. A cooling collar, bandanna, vest or coat just needs a short spell in the freezer or a cold water soak to keep your dog comfortable for several hours. Indoors, your buddy may find your Baltimore tile floor cool to lie down on, but a little hard; a soft cooling bed will take care of that problem. A small fan can be helpful if you crate your pet.
Never leave your dog in a parked car without the air conditioning running on a hot – or warm – day. Even with the window open, your vehicle’s interior temperature can rise to a dangerous level.
While a short haircut might look like a good idea in the summer, your animal’s fur actually serves as insulation against the heat. Brushing is advisable, though, to remove the results of winter shedding and improve air circulation.
During a heat wave, ask a trusted neighbor or two to check on the dog while you are out. This is extra-important if your area is subject to frequent summer power failures … meaning no air conditioning for several hours.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.