Well, I feel like I have been gone from writing forever. I’m sure that everyone missed me talking about weight for the summer and ticks, but the good news is that I have been storing up a lot of thoughts and tips to share with everyone.
I’m going to skip talking about Corona because we are bombarded from all sides lately (as we should be) and hop right to heat. Wow, it is hot out lately. It seems like I forget every summer how much I dislike the heat. Since we are out and about less due to restricted activities, it is a little bit easier to keep our dogs out of the cars.
We all know not to leave our dogs in the hot car, but did you know that even if the windows are cracked the temperature still rises? You should not leave your pets (or children) in a car if it is over 70 degrees outside. Honestly, 70 doesn’t seem that hot. You might even take a light shirt on your walk. But, imagine your car as a greenhouse. Unless it is running with the air conditioning on, the heat intensifies inside rapidly. If it is 75 degrees out, temperatures in a car can reach 118 degrees. If it is 90 degrees out car temperatures can reach about 143 degrees.
Parking in the shade with the windows far down is ok up to a point, but shade moves and open windows can lead to dogs jumping out and running away. The best bet is planning your errands when your dogs can be home, on cooler nights, or leaving the car running and ac on. Keep in mind that this can only be done outdoors where there isn’t a risk of carbon monoxide leaking into the car. Dogs can also hop around cars, so your controls must be such that your dog can’t knock the air conditioning to heat. Since our weather seems to be losing its mind a little more each year, these increased emissions are also not recommended.
Remember that your pet has a fur coat on without the benefit of shorts or a bathing suit. Many dogs are willing to continue running, hiking, or biking even in very hot temperatures. Dogs don’t have the ability to say “it’s too hot for my kidneys to function well, let’s take a break.” It is our job to make these decisions for our pets. If it is too hot for you to jog in sweats, it is too hot for forced canine activity.
Dogs and cats do not sweat the same way that horses and people do, so they are less well adapted to heat. Without sweat to cool themselves, dogs and cats have a much more dangerous increase in body temperature. Furthermore, the moisture that leaves through their paws and tongues usually serves more to dehydrate than cool them efficiently.
It is important that your pet has fresh, clean water available at all times. However, it becomes even more important in the summer as they lose fluids by panting and require more water to maintain balance. If you see your cat panting, it is a sign of serious distress and you should contact your vet immediately.
Walking on the pavement adds even more heat. We have to remember that our pets are barefoot and do most of their sweating through their paws. Not only are we heating up their feet, but we are also eliminating their cooling ability. During the summer blacktop surfaces can be up to 40 degrees hotter than the air outside. The most dangerous time for pavement to heat up is from about noon-5pm when it has had a chance to be in direct sunlight for many hours.
While it luckily is rarely hot here, take a moment to think about the pavement temperature. When in doubt, see if you can comfortably walk on it without shoes or socks on. If you can’t, then neither should your dog. Grass and shaded areas are noticeably cooler than pavement.
Take your dog to a park or grassy area to exercise when the temperatures start to rise. Wooded trail walks are another great option.
Heatstroke is a dangerous condition that damages the brain and kidneys very quickly. If your pet is suffering from heatstroke, never place them in ice water or try to treat this condition yourself. It needs to be resolved with intravenous fluids and careful monitoring of organ function.
Placing pets in cold water when they are suffering from heatstroke makes it more difficult for them to lose heat through their skin and makes internal temperatures warmer.
Since I love to see pets exercising and extra fat makes dogs even hotter (now they don’t just have a fur coat, they have a fur coat over a lead vest), I still encourage exercise in the summer. The best way to do this is to exercise in the morning or evening when the sun is not overhead and the temperatures are cooler. Hiking in shaded areas, or taking your pet to walk in grassy, shaded areas is a good alternative. Bring them their own water bottle or allow them chances to drink often.
Additionally, just as we like to get in the water to cool off, so do most dogs. Remember though, not all dogs can swim instinctively. Start off wading and keep a close eye on them at all times. Never make your dog swim alongside a kayak or canoe when they might tire far from shore and be forced to swim back. Some dogs can swim all day, but this should be a choice. For dogs that love to swim, it is a perfect summer exercise activity. It is also a low impact activity for older dogs that need to lose some weight and be active but get sore walking. Swimming is one of my favorite activities for dogs (and some cats too).
Summer gives us extra hours of daylight to walk and allows us not to be weighed down in winter clothes. It also lets our pets and kids exercise together. With a few precautions, this is the perfect time of year to help your dog get their beach body back.