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Summer, Your Dog and the Heat

May 30, 2012

Dog care in preparation for summer

The summer grows near and the heat is already here. So, now it’s time for people to get outside and work in their gardens, carry on with outdoor projects, and even fit in a regular workout. But with the increasing heat, we’re left wondering how to stay cool while enjoying the summer air.

For our dogs, the summer heat can be a little more extreme. We can take off an extra layer of clothes when it gets too hot, but our dogs are usually stuck with the same coat all year around. On top of that, the body heat for a dog is naturally higher and they can’t sweat to cool down like we do! As your dog’s owner and protector, it’s up to you to ensure their health this summer.

For starters, don’t’ take your dog out on hot pavement, which can be an astounding twenty degrees hotter than the air. The heat from asphalt can blister paws very quickly. Even a single trip outside just to potty can leave your dog with singed paws. A grass litter box on the patio or even inside can prevent mid-day treks across hot pavement.

Exercising outdoors

Staying fit is fun for the both of you, but also keep in mind that your dog’s body isn’t the same as yours. Before starting your workout, it can take some careful planning so that you can safely stay cool. First of all, choose a place that will provide shade from the heat. Parks with thick tree lines will be best for insulating the ground from excess heat. Staying hydrated is important for the both of you. Remember that because dogs can’t sweat like people do, they will instead salivate and pant in order to cool their bodies. This naturally demands water to help carry out the process. Carry cool, not frozen, water with you. A bottle will work, but there are collapsible bowls that are easy enough to stash while you’re working out. Also, keep in mind that a healthy diet provides energy, allowing the body to perform daily tasks properly. Feeding your dog a healthy diet will make a difference on how susceptible their body is to the heat.

Shave, not just a haircut

What about the controversial technique of simply shaving your dog? Many owners firmly believe it works, while others have their doubts. In this scenario, it often depends on circumstance, environment, and breed to come to the best decision. It can be good and it can be bad. Consider some of the results that fellow dog owners have encountered.

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns is that the dog’s fur becomes very thin, revealing their sensitive skin. This means they can easily get sunburned. Unlike people whose skins normally develop melanin to help guard against the sun’s effects, dogs rely on their fur to protect their skin.

A positive side is that shaving eliminates an extra layer of fur that can keep heat in, rather than out, since it can accumulate dirt and debris. The extra fur and dirt in it can act as a barrier, keeping natural body heat in.

To counter this effect, double-coated dogs like corgis naturally have a short, thin fur designed to help keep them cool during the summer heat. This is one of the reasons that double-coated breeds seem to shed at extraordinary levels, especially during the summer months. It is recommended that you not shave these certain breeds of dog because the multi-coats work to protect their skin and keep heat out, rather than in.

Protect your dog’s sensitive spots

What about sunscreen for dogs? Dogs are just as susceptible to sunburns as people, especially if you’ve recently had them shaved. But, sunscreen for a human isn’t the same for a dog. You should never use any ointments or creams designed for a person on your dog, especially lotions and sunscreen. The chemical content can not only irritate skin, but can be toxic if your dog consumes it (licking their nose or belly).

Applications should be made to sun-sensitive areas such as tips of ears, nose, belly, and groin areas where fur is naturally thinner and skin is more sensitive. The belly is important, especially if you notice that your dog tends to enjoy sunbathing belly-up by the window.

This summer, keep the heat away from your dog and your dog out of the heat. It’s still good to get out and enjoy the summer activities, but you need to be ready to keep your dog cool so they can enjoy a happy and healthy summer with you.

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