DR. CATIE'S SUMMERTIME TIPS
Spring turns to summer in a few short days and if your pup is anything like Remington the labradoodle, you’re looking forward to an active and fun summer.
Unfortunately, dozens of pups become victims of heatstroke each year. The SwiftPaws Community team reached out to Remington’s mom, Dr. Catie, for tips for how to ensure every active day is as safe and fun as possible. Dr. Catie has been practicing veterinary medicine for five years and says she loves nurturing the human-animal bond.
“Dogs mean so much to us, they give us so much joy, and I love nurturing that relationship,” said Dr. Catie. “There are a few easy things you can do to make sure your active dog enjoys every dog day of summer.”
#1 WHEN YOU’RE HOT, THEY’RE HOTTER
I always recommend that pet parents consider how they personally would feel in any given situation. An obvious example is to use the UV index, download the app and decide whether it’s safe for you and your pup to be outside. If it’s not safe for you it’s certainly not safe for your dog.
Be aware of extreme ground temperatures. Before walking on asphalt, hold your hand to the ground for seven seconds. This will give you a close approximation to what your dog’s feet will feel like on that walk. If it’s too hot for you it’s too hot for them.
The beaches are open and there is a ton of outdoor activities to do this time of year. If you’re out on the water or boating, make sure your pup has a place to get out of the sun.
Before starting any activity, be sure you and your pup(s) have ample shade and water available at all times. If it’s an all-day, no break, and no salvation kind of day, consider leaving your pup at home and giving them a rest.
#2 WATER AND SHADE ALL DAY, EVERY DAY
The water bowl should always be accessible and filled with water.
If you are struggling to get your dog to drink water, we’ve found that most dogs like ice cubes. Sometimes we’ll even use a milk bone to flavor the water or chicken broth. Frozen popsicles can also be a great idea. However, human popsicles loaded with sugar are not a good plan. You can make your own frozen popsicles and freeze all sorts of delicious dog treats in icecube trays so they can have those on hot days. Keep in mind that there are fruits that dogs should not have. Grapes are a bad choice. Strawberries are pretty safe to use if your dog likes the taste.
Keep in mind that you’d want a few water bottles for yourself if you’re going to be in the heat for a long time. You’ll want the same amount of water for your dog. On a trail or a hike, pop-up bowls are popular. There are also water bowls that you can attach to a water bottle and your pup can lick from that.
#3 EVERYTHING IN MODERATION
t’s important to know that dehydration and heat stroke go hand-in-hand.
High-then-low temperature shocks to the body can be dangerous especially for very young and very old dogs. Any dog that stays inside most of the day then pops outside a couple of hours is going to have a substantial, uncomfortable shock to the body. Ease them into transitions by setting your AC a little higher and then dialing it back it down gradually.
If you know your dog has been overheating, you must get them back to normal gradually. Too often, humans panic and make the mistake of throwing a dog that’s dehydrated into an ice bath. This will shock their system and impede recovery. Use tepid water to cool them down gradually. Don’t panic, call your vet, and ask for advice.
#4 WATCH FOR WARNING SIGNS
It’s most important not to panic and to use moderation when rehydrating your pup.
Some signs to look out for are excessive panting where they can’t catch their breath, if your pup is laying out flat and not being responsive, or if your dog has red and dry gums. You should be able to touch your dog’s gums and they should have some moistness to it. If they’re dry then they are going to need some help. Not having any appetite, that’s another sign. If dehydration continues, they will start vomiting.
Try getting your pup to drink some tepid water and call your vet if your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms. If your dog likes being hosed down, the legs are where their veins are closest to the surface, it’s where a lot of the heat is transpired. As you hose them, squeegee the water off a bit, that way heat can transpire. Find some cool tile for them to lay down on or use a fan to help them to cool off safely and gradually.
#5 PREVENTION IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER
Wherever you are in the world during the summer months, more bugs means more disease and carry from bug-to-pup, pup-to-pup, etc. Make sure you’re always keeping up on prevention.
#6 KNOW YOUR PUP
There is a broad variance in size for all dogs – from a chihuahua to Great Dane – they all have different needs during different seasons. Very old and very young dogs get more tired more quickly and need more shade and more breaks during the summer months. Just like a human baby, you wouldn’t leave a young child outside all day. Smaller bodies need more ways to get rid of that heat. Older dogs — even the most athletic ones — have some level of arthritis going on and are more likely to overheat on a hot day.
Any dog with pink skin — regardless of the color of their fur — will need more shade or they will burn. For a dog that needs to be groomed, like Remington the Labradoodle, keep up with grooming as much as possible. However, know that it is not a good idea to shave all dogs (i.e. this can damage a husky’s double coat). Do your research and talk to a groomer before a shave down.
It’s even more important that short-faced dogs (the fancy word is brachcephalic) bulldogs, french bulldogs, short-faced pugs, get plenty of water and shade because their panting mechanism isn’t as efficient. They cannot cool themselves down as well as other dogs can.
If you’re looking for more resources on how to stay cool during the summer, I recommend avoiding viral posts on social media. Information that is backed by several scientific papers tends to be more reliable than what your most informed friends are posting. The American Kennel Club is a great resource. Be sure to double, then triple-check that information you use to care for your pet is coming from several reliable sources.