Summer Tips for your Dog's Well Being

N.H. Sunday News - Dog Tracks Column - 6/26/11
By: Gail T. Fisher


At a recent Managers’ Meeting, we were discussing topics for our monthly all-staff lunch and training session. The winning suggestion was to review the symptoms of heat stroke, especially for our newer staff. Even thought heat stroke is unlikely in our Daycare where the dogs have access to several pools and sprinklers, not to mention shaded areas and rest in air conditioning, but it never hurts to review this information for everyone, not just at work, but also at home with their own dogs. So, as a reminder to everyone ...

A dog’s normal body temperature is between 100 and 103 degrees. The symptoms of heat stroke include an elevated temperature of 106 degrees, panting with thick mucous slobbering from the dog’s mouth. The tongue and gums are bright red, and the dog’s movement will be unsteady and staggering. The dog may vomit and have diarrhea, and if untreated quickly, will collapse and go into a coma.

Fast action can mean the difference between life and death. Move the dog into a cool area, lay him on his right side and cool him quickly by wetting him with cold water, especially the head, neck, belly and groin areas. If possible, put the dog on a tile floor or in a tub or wading pool. As he’s soaking, gently massage his legs and body, and use a fan to speed cooling. The idea is to get the dog’s body temperature down as quickly as possible. While you’re tending to your dog, have someone call the veterinarian or emergency clinic so you can immediately take your dog there as soon as his temperature is down.

Other summer tips fall under the category of common sense, which sadly often seems not to be common. Don’t take your dog running in hot humid weather. Consider that your dog is barefoot on hot pavement, wearing a fur coat.

eaking of your dog’s coat, this is a good time of year for a thorough grooming, getting rid of your dog’s hot undercoat, but don’t shave your dog down to the skin. As illogical as it may seem, shaving a dog does not make him cooler. A dog is actually hotter without a protective coat that shields him from sunburn, from (some) bug bites, from cold and from the heat. Professional grooming with hot water and high velocity bathing and drying gets out the undercoat, leaving the protective (cooling) outer coat. Trimming a long coat (not shaving) can make it easier to manage for brushing, swimming and bug searches, but don’t shave your collie, Lab, golden retriever, Newfie and the like.

And then there’s hot car advice. Each summer there are horrific stories of a child dying when it is accidentally left in a car in the sun. The interior of a car parked in the sun quickly reaches temperatures or 140 degrees or more – temperatures that quickly and cruelly kill a dog. Even with windows open a crack, a car interior can become a coffin.It isn’t safe to leave the engine running and the air conditioning on either. The car can stall and with the windows shut, the car will heat up in minutes. 

If you must take your dog you, park in the shade, cover the top of the car and windshield or rear window (whichever faces the sun) with a heat reflecting thermal blanket, leave windows on both sides open at least eight inches or more, with battery operated fans to circulate outside air into the car. Leave a bowl of cool water for the dog to drink, and check on him frequently. Sound like too much trouble? Don’t take chances—leave your dog home.

In response to last week’s column about flea and tick control (available on my website if you missed it), a reader wrote the following reminder they had found useful for removing ticks: “Apply a glob of liquid soap to a cotton ball. Cover the tick with the soap-soaked cotton ball and let it stay on the repulsive insect for 15-20 seconds, after which the tick will come out on its own and stick to the cotton ball. This technique has worked every time I’ve used it (which was frequently) and is much less traumatic for the patient.” Thanks for sending this.

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Copyright © Gail T. Fisher, 2011. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint this article or suggestions for future topics, please contact us.