August 06, 2006

Keep Those Hot Dogs Cool!

With forecasts across the nation still predicting record high summer temperatures and humidity, we mustn't forget that dogs are even more at risk for heat stroke, dehydration, and other heat-related illnesses as humans are. Dog's bodies are designed to conserve heat, and are much less efficient at cooling themselves. Below are a few things to consider to help your pet cool down and stay safe.

*Access to fresh water is one of the most important requirements for your dog, even if they stay indoors. Dogs will drink more in the hot summer months, so be sure to check their bowl often. Consider buying a "no-tip" bowl or an automatic waterer.

*Encourage your dog to remain as inactive as possible in the heat, if they haven't already taken it apon themselves to do this.

*Let your dog get wet! A plastic kiddie pool or a water sprinkler in the yard can provide lots of relief. If your dog is very small, you can buy a clean plastic pan (such as the ones they use for draining oil) to serve as a miniature pool for them.

*Give your dog a cool treat, such as an ice cube or a small piece of popsicle.

*If your pet is left alone in your home during the day while you work, prepare ahead of time in case there is a power outage in your neighborhood. Be sure there will be someone available who can at least check on your pets and open some windows if the air conditioning goes out.

* If you have an outdoor dog, consider bringing him indoors during the hottest part of the day, and be sure that his area of the yard provides plenty of shade. Try to use a tip-proof bowl for water, and remember to refill it often. Make sure the water bowl is in the shade, since the sun can quickly make it too hot to drink.

*If you must walk your dog, try to avoid walking them during the mid-day heat, and keep the walks short. If possible, select a route that provides as much shade as possible. Remember that dog's paws can be burned on hot sidewalks, sand, and asphalt: lay your palm on the surface, and if it is uncomfortable to you it will be uncomfortable to them. To avoid hot surfaces, allow your dog to walk in the grass as much as possible, or consider getting them a set of dog boots.

*When traveling in the car, don't forget to carry water and a bowl for your pet, and NEVER leave them in the car, even for a short time. On hot humid days, temperatures inside of a car parked in direct sunlight can rise more than 30 degrees per minute, and rapidly become lethal. Leaving windows down will not help (try sitting in the car for a few minutes after you turn it off--- you'll quickly realize what we mean). If you see a pet that has been left in a car, do take the time to contact the store's security officer or the police; it may just save that animal's life.

*Lots of innovative products are available to help keep your pet comfortable, including cooling bandanas, vests, and water-filled cooling beds.

If you dog begins to show signs of heat illness, immediately move them to a shaded or air-conditioned area. Encourage them to drink water, and apply cool packs to the head, neck and/or belly, or immerse them in cool (not cold) water to begin lowering their temperature. If you suspect your dog has a heat-induced illness, take them to the vet immediately. Some signs to watch out for are: heavy panting, vomiting, fever, excessive thirst, staggering, dark red or purple gums and/or tongue, listlessness, dazed look, rapid heartbeat, refusing to drink.

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