"Our dog is part of the family," people proudly profess. Then they go and do something they would never do to a family member, often with disastrous results.
When I first moved to RiverDell I often saw a man with an aging retriever mix vigorously playing fetch in the mornings in Van Saun Park. If I was out walking, he was out exercising the dog as well. But as spring turned into summer and I switched to an air-conditioned gym for exercise, I'd drive past and glimpse the retriever, panting and running, tongue lolling out, struggling to catch the ball.
If dogs are truly "part of the family," here's my question: Would you bundle up your grandma in a fur coat in 90-degree heat and ask her to run back and forth in the burning sun?
Not likely. It's usually not an intentional act of malice that harms our pets in summer, but a careless one. One assumes the owner's good intention in this instance was to help his dog stay young with consistent exercise. But when it comes to pets and summer, there are important guidelines to bear in mind:
- No Exercise In The Heat.
Heat stroke is deadly and comes on quickly in warm weather. Exercise a dog in summer only in the cool hours of early morning or later in the evenings. DOGS BECOME OVERHEATED MUCH FASTER THAN PEOPLE: you may be a bit sweaty after a summer stroll but your dog can be heading for a stroke.
- Don't Leave Your Dog Alone In The Car, NOT Even With Windows Open. Even if the temperature outside is just mildly warm, the inside of a car (with windows open) is still much hotter. Another thing about those windows: dogs can ESCAPE. It's surprising how a motivated dog can squeeze out of window left open just a bit too wide. Don't take any chances if it's warm....leave your dog at home.
- Lawn Treatments, Pesticides and Poisonous Plants.
If you have a dog, don't permit any landscaping that involves chemical pesticides. Dogs can lick up toxins and/or absorb them into their bloodstream. Certain dogs, such as greyhounds and whippets, are much more susceptible to toxins. Check out any random flora that has sprung up since the start of the warmer season and make sure it is dog-friendly.
- Mulch Can Be Dangerous. Check ingredients on any bagged mulch before putting it out. Mulch is often made with cocoa products which are poisonous to dogs. Opt instead for all natural mulch products with no cocoa listed in the ingredients.
- Shorter Walks, More Of Them. Instead of the usual 3 walks a day, plan on 5 or 6 quick ones. Quick, to avoid the heat and more of them because since your dog will be drinking more water than usual....well, you know.
- Don't Put Dogs In Situations Where They Need To Protect Themselves. Summer's in and school's out. Kids are everywhere. If your dog isn't used to them (and even if your dog is used to kids), the added heat and discomfort can make children's sudden movements and noise seem assaultive. ALWAYS SUPERVISE CHILDREN AROUND DOGS and teach them to respect the boundaries of an animal's tolerance.
- Let Sleeping Dogs Lie. Really. Dogs need more rest in the heat. Don't bother a sleeping animal.
- When Traveling, Be Prepared. If you travel with your dog to a hotel which permits pets, make certain the front-desk and cleaning staff are aware that there is a dog in your room. If you go out and leave your pet behind in a hotel, be sure you are carrying a note somewhere on your person which indicates the name, address and room number of the hotel where your dog is "trapped." People who have been in car accidents or other mishaps after leaving their pets in hotels for what was anticipated to be a short jaunt, have often experienced heartbreak when they eventually returned to collect their dogs.
- You're On Vacation And Your Dog-Sitter Suffers A Heart Attack. Have a back-up plan in case the unexpected happens. Sadly, sometimes it does. Make sure someone else (besides the dog sitter) has the key to your home and is willing to care for your pet until your return.
- Hot Sidewalk Burns The Paws. Walk your dog on the grass, not on the concrete where your own feet would hurt if you weren't wearing those nice flip-flops.
- Water, Lots Of It. In your dog and ON your dog. Pour a cool (NOT FREEZING COLD) cup or two of water over your dog's body frequently when you are outdoors. Let your dog lie in a kiddie-pool to cool off.
- Sunblock. Dogs get sunburned and they get skin cancer. Speak with your vet about which sunblocks are non-toxic for dog use. A bit on the nose and any exposed skin will help protect from damage.
IF YOUR DOG OVERHEATS: This is an emergency situation.
Cool your dog down SLOWLY with wet towels combined with the breeze of a fan. DO NOT put ice or ice water on your dog; intense cold can cause him to stroke out.
If your dog has the following symptoms:
- Pale gums
- Very red tongue
- Panting that does not slow down quickly
- Stumbling, lying down and not getting up
- Not responding to being called or spoken to
- Drooling and/or vomiting
DO NOT WAIT: take him to Oradell Animal Hospital IMMEDIATELY. Oradell Animal Hospital is open for emergency assistance 24 hours a day, weekends and holidays.
Enjoy the warm weather and make certain that your four-legged family member enjoys it safely along with you!