For some people summer may be the best time of year. But, for pets, summer can be one of the most dangerous times of year. With high temperatures, and long days of sunshine, pets, like children are more prone to feeling the detrimental effects of the heat before their adult owners.
Dogs can easily become victims of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but there are certain things you can do to ensure your pet is always safe and comfortable. Most of us may think these tips are purely common sense but with a few recent calls to local RCMP detachments about animals in distress and animals left in vehicles, this may not always be so. “We recommend that pet owners do not leave their animal in a vehicle for any length of time,” says Sgt. Dave Dubnyk, Elk Valley RCMP. “People don’t really realize how fast a vehicle can heat up,” he says.
Some guidelines to make sure your pet stays safe this summer:
• Water at all times in a container that cannot be tipped over, ice chips or small ice blocks (frozen in empty yogurt or butter containers) can be used to keep the water cool and fresh.
• A source of shade to rest and get out of the beating sun.
• If your pet is in a kennel or needs to be to be transported in a kennel, make sure they are wire and the breeze can flow freely through them.
• Asphalt can burn dogs’ feet. To prevent this, simply walk your dog on the sidewalk or grass.
• On hot days, be careful not to overexert your dog. Exercise in the summertime is best done in the morning or evenings.
• Never leave your dog or any pet unattended in a vehicle.
• Check pets often for fleas and ticks.
• Always restrain your dog in the back of a pickup truck.
“A clean dog is a healthy dog,” explains local groomer, Kelly Stark. “When a dog’s coat is clean it acts like an air conditioner in the summer and a heater in the winter. Dogs with dirty, matted coats do not get the benefit of the dog’s natural temperature control,” she says. Keeping your dog clipped short in the summer months, will keep them cool as well as having many other benefits,” she says.
Dr. Charlie Zachar from Pincher Creek Veterinary Clinic, says, “One of the main concerns we have is pets left in vehicles, we luckily haven’t had too many calls for these types of cases. In the few cases we have had they usually don’t end well,” he says.
If you are concerned your dog may have heat sickness, Dr. Zachar notes these potential symptoms. “People can look for panting, weakness, disorientation, anxiousness or staring. If your dog is showing signs of these symptoms immediately move your pet into a cool location and gradually reduce their temperature with cool water on their paws, spraying them with cool water from a garden hose or tub and by moving cool air past them. The key is to cool them by evaporation. If you dunk them in cold water the blood vessels of the skin close, all of a sudden their body becomes like a boiler and the outcome will most likely be a bad one,” he says. “Also, be sure to let them drink little bits of water frequently.”
“I am not aware of any black and white symptoms when to bring your dog to the vet in the case of heat sickness,” says Dr. Zachar.” It depends on where you are, how close you are to a vet and the severity of the case. You simply have to make a decision and run with it.”
Dr. Zachar would also like to remind dog owners to be aware of other summertime pet safety concerns. “Pet owners should look for ticks and fleas, and be aware of their prevalence in your area or where you are travelling to. Keeping your dog clipped in the summer will help keep them cool and allow pet owners to see fleas and ticks easier,” he says. “Letting your pet hang its head out the window in a moving vehicle also causes many injuries to dogs,” he notes. “Dogs can easily get foreign object in their ears and eyes. If you think of what your windshield looks like after a drive, that is what hits your dogs face,” he says. “ Eye and ear irritation is also a common side effect from this practice,” he notes. He also stresses that leaving a dog loose in the back of a pickup truck is never a good idea.