Hot dogs: a guide to summer

Hot dogs: a guide to summer with your four-legged friend.

As a dog trainer who often works outside, I feel it’s essential that all my fellow dog lovers and owners are aware of certain dangers. Whilst the Summer months are indeed delightful, they are accompanied with seasonal dog-owner duties and responsibilities.

Warmer weather means plenty of opportunities to wander in the sunshine and get out in nature with your pooch. But canines can suffer from the heat just as much as humans and it is important to educate ourselves so we can spot symptoms of overheating, sunburn and dehydration to name but a few common issues that your dog may face in the rising temperatures.

Paws for thought

Remember when you were last at the beach running across the hot pavement and sand as quickly as you could to towards the sea or shade because the soles of your feet felt like they were on fire? It’s the same for your canine companion. Hot weather increases the temperature of the concrete and pavements. Although you may not notice (why would you, you’re wearing shoes?) your dog most certainly will. Their paws pads can easily be burnt and crack by walking on the hot ground which can cause pain and discomfort for your pet. Dogs can also absorb heat through their paw pads. If you cannot place and hold the back of your hand on the ground for longer than five seconds, then it is too hot for your pet’s paws. If this is the case, walk your dog on grass if possible or wait until later in the day when the heat starts to cool. You can also provide your dog with special shoes (although in my experience dogs do not respond particularly well to walking with shoes) or invest in paw cream or wax to apply to the pads. Vaseline also does the job! If your dog has suffered cracks and sores on their pads then a trip to the vets is in order.

Fleas and ticks

The creepy crawlies have returned. The two common ‘pet’ hates of every animal owner – fleas and ticks.  Fleas are insects that can jump up to eight inches off the ground to grab the next passing victim. They feed on the blood of the host which causes unpleasant irritation and itching of the skin. Once fed, a single flea can live for almost three months on your dog’s coat. If your dog has been excessively scratching or gnawing at themselves, check for fleas with a comb. Flea ‘dirt’ may be easier to spot than live adults as it stays in one place. Fleas can spread like wildfire through your home and to other animals if not treated effectively. Infestations are hard to eliminate and the effort and method it requires to prevent them are simple. Your veterinarian should prescribe a flea preventative which will help keep those hopping critters at bay.

Ticks are very common in the warmer months so make sure you check your dog’s skin when grooming, especially after playing in woodlands and long grass. They are part of the arachnid family and feed by latching onto a host and sucking blood. It’s extremely important to remove the tick as soon and as carefully as possible. I have a pair of removal tweezers in Nero’s first aid kit that is specifically designed for the job. Although the majority do not, ticks are known and can transmit tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease. They can also release your pet and attach themselves to other animals and humans.

Dehydration is deadly

Just like humans, dogs have to keep hydrated in hot weather. They do have sweat glands (mainly on their paw pads and nose) but their primary way of respiring is via panting or heavy breathing. It’s best to not overexert your dog in hot weather as this increases the risk of over-heating and dehydration which can lead to exhaustion, heat stroke and even death. Dog’s don’t always know their limits – my dog would play fetch till he dropped if I let him. It’s a clever idea to take your dog for their daily walks in the cooler hours of the day (early morning and late evening) to avoid the high temperatures.

It’s vital that your dog has clean, fresh water available both in your home and when you take them out for a walk – especially if your planning on going out for extended periods of time. There are many compact and handy dog water bottles on the market that can make water easy to access and carry. Some fold up to fit in your bag whilst others have a bottle with a permanently attached tray for your dog to drink from. Personally, I found these designs of little use with larger breeds. Due to my German Shepherd’s size and inability to drink ‘tidily’ meant he was lucky to get one mouthful of water from the plastic tray. My boy can drink litres of water when we go on a hike or a day out in the city. I simply carry the spare water bowl and three water bottles in my rucksack that I can refill to ensure he has consumed enough water throughout the day.

Stagnant water

Do not under any circumstances allow your dog to drink from puddles, ponds or stagnant water. Water-borne diseases are rife in the summer period and ingesting such bacteria and parasites can cause illness ranging from mild to severe.  Stagnant water is like a soup of toxins waiting to harm your dog. Even if your pooch would not usually drink from natural resources, a sweltering day can make even the dirtiest of waters appealing. Carrying and supplying fresh water for your dog when out and about will remove the urge to gulp down such water and ensure they stay hydrated. Upset stomach, diarrhoea and vomiting can all be side effects of drinking stagnant water. If you think your dog has drunk from contaminated water and is showing these symptoms you should contact your vet.

Shade and sunburn.

You must ensure that your pup has a cool, shaded area where they are able to lie down and cool off. Dog’s don’t do too well lying in direct sunlight for lengthy periods of time. Not many owners realise that their dog can indeed catch sunburn! Dogs that are hairless or have light coloured fur are much more likely to attract the sun, as are those with shorter legs as their bellies are closer to the ground which reflects the sunlight. Breeds such as Staffordshire Terriers and Boxers (to name but a few) are more likely to suffer from sunburn. To help prevent sunburn, ensure your dog has plenty of shade and do not walk them during the hottest part of the day. You can also purchase dog sunscreen to apply to your pet. It leaves out the toxic ingredients that are found in human sunscreen that could be harmful to your pet.

Cars are hot boxes

Leaving a dog in a hot car is extremely dangerous. Although you may think that by leaving the air con on and the windows open that your four-legged friend is cool, you can rest assured they are heating up at an alarming rate. Your fur baby could die from heat within just six minutes of being in a hot vehicle. Upon spotting a dog locked inside a car on a muggy day, the public is within their right to phone emergency services and request help to free the animal. In some parts of the world, you can even break the car window without assistance to remove the dog from this dangerous situation.

Beach bums

The beach is a great destination for a walk. Dogs can swim in the waves, dig in the sand and paddle till their hearts are content. In the Summer, many beaches will restrict areas so dogs are not permitted, so be sure to check your local council before planning. If you are heading to the beach with your best friend, make sure you have plenty of fresh drinking water, something to provide shade for your dog and rinse them thoroughly after swimming in the ocean. It’s important to keep eyes on your dog as you would a child. Undercurrents can sweep your dog out to sea, jellyfish may be lurking in the waters and litter are all dangers to be aware of. If you are lucky enough to go boating with your pet, ensure you take a canine approved life vest for their safety.

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