Summer is typically a time of great family fun and activity. The days are
long and warm, the kids are on vacation, and the sun worshipers are out in full
force. Unfortunately, the season also brings with it some very specific hazards
- sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Not only are these hazards a threat
to your human family, they can endanger the lives of your furry family members
as well. As temperatures soar, your dog will need a little attention in order to
ensure his safety.
Protecting Your Dog from a Nasty Sunburn
Many people don't realize that dogs, just like humans, can be burned by the sun. So what can you do to protect your pooch from those burning rays? Just use the same common sense and know-how that keeps you and your family from burning up in the sun. First, keep your dog in the shade during those times when the sun's rays are most intense - approximately 10 am to 4 pm. Second, apply a little sun block to your dog's most exposed areas - the tip of each ear and the nose. While your dog's lip area is also vulnerable to sunburn, the chance that your dog will ingest any sunscreen applied there is too great.
Instead of applying sunscreen to the lip area, just keep a close eye on it
and make sure that the area doesn't get too pink. Third, pay special attention
to your dog if he has a lighter colored fur. Just like their pale human
counterparts, these dogs are more vulnerable to the burning effects of the sun.
If, after a day out in the sun, any portion of your dog's skin is reddened or
blistered, immediately seek a veterinarian's opinion and care.
Protecting Your Dog from Heat-Related Conditions
Just a few simple actions on your part can help protect your dog from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. First, never leave your dog in the car without the air conditioner running. Even a few minutes in the sun can send the interior temperature of a car (with windows open or closed) soaring to fatal temperatures. If you're doing errands and know that you'll be in and out of the vehicle, your safest option is to simply leave the dog at home. However, if you really must leave your dog in the car for even the shortest period of time, leave the air conditioner on.
Second, provide your dog with a shaded, well-ventilated resting area that will remain shaded at all times, regardless of the sun's position. You may have to move the dog's shade throughout the day in order to achieve this. Of course, during the most excruciating heat of the day, the ideal place for your dog is an air conditioned structure.
Third, make sure that your dog has unhindered access to cool, clean water. You'll want to place the water in a shaded area so that it does not heat up as a result of direct sunlight. Change the water often, as stagnant water can harbor bacteria and insects that are harmful to a dog's digestive system. When traveling, make sure that you have a water dish and fresh water (figure on one gallon per day) on hand at all times. If your dog spends all day outside, provide him with a small, shaded wading pool filled with water. Your dog can cool himself off throughout the day by jumping in and out of it. Make sure, however, that the pool is in the same, consistently shaded area as the drinking water.
Fourth, avoid any situation that would force your dog to stand on a sun-baked surface for any length of time. Such surfaces include truck beds, sidewalks, streets and beach sand. The heat can not only burn your dog's skin, but can also prevent your dog from efficiently expelling heat from his body. If you must walk your dog in the heat of the day, walk him on a grassy area.
Recognizing and Treating Your Dog's Heat Stroke
If your dog's body temperature gets too high, he could develop heat stroke, or hyperthermia. In addition to a high body temperature (over 105 - 110 degrees F), the signs that indicate potential heat stroke are: an inordinate amount of panting, labored breathing, bright red gums or eye membranes, pronounced fatigue, collapse, unconsciousness and seizures. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, get him out of the heat immediately and into the shade. If possible, put your dog in a tub of cool water or bathe him with a series of cool, wet towels. Do not use cold water or ice! Either will cause your dog's blood vessels to constrict and impede the body from being able to release heat. Heat stroke should be treated as an emergency; therefore, as soon as possible, seek a veterinarian's care.