The expression “dog days of summer” originated from Greek and Roman astrology, when the rising of Sirius (dog star) kicked off the hottest, most uncomfortable days of summer. For our furry friends, “dog days” can be downright deadly.
Playing with pets outdoors on a hot day, or simply leaving them outside, even in the shade, can cause them to suffer extreme injury, such as organ failure, brain damage or even death from heatstroke. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, hundreds of pets a year die from heat exhaustion.
It’s crucial for pet owners to take the steps necessary to ensure that our pets don’t fall victim to the extreme heat we experience. Here are some summer tips to keep our pets cool and comfy around the home and when traveling this season.
Provide ample shade, but not from a doghouse. Shade from a doghouse traps heat, creating a greenhouse effect. Opt for shade created by trees or tarps. Companies like Pawhut sell shade products such as an elevated cooling cot with canopy shade. It’s portable with a travel bag, so it’s ideal for vacation as well.
Throw a pet pool party. A small, rigid kiddie pool or portable pet pool filled with ice water and kept in the shade creates the perfect place for your pooch to splash around and cool off.
Make frozen dog treats. Products like Doggie Cone can be filled with your own frozen treat recipe and used over and over again; it’s more affordable than designer dog ice cream.
Create an outdoor dog wash station. You can easily fashion the garden hose with some PVC pipe to create cool and clean fun for Fido. Google “pet life hacks” for ideas.
Make a cool doggie bed. Consider purchasing a self-cooling pet pad or vet-approved ice packs to line your dog’s bed. Similar ice packs are available in dog vests.
As for summer travel, there’s no need to “ruff” it when accommodations are available for animal companions. Pet friendly properties and pet fees vary from hotel to hotel. The only hotel chain I’ve found that offers free pet stay, nationwide, is Red Roof Inn.
When traveling with your pet, or any time for that matter, never leave your pet in the car, not even for a minute. Don’t think that summer nighttime temperatures are safe either.
Something else to consider in summer heat is burned paws. Dangerously hot pavement can injure pet foot pads. Be mindful to walk your pet on grass, in a shaded area or on the cooler side of the street.
Finally, like us two-leggeds, four-legged friends need extra water in our desert climate. Always have plenty of water and a spray bottle on hand. It will also help to travel with a pet microfiber cooling towel; just wet, wring and wrap it around your pet for hours of cooling.
Keep an eye out for signs of pet heat exhaustion (heatstroke) like panting; excessive drooling; signs of dehydration including dry nose, visible tiredness and sunken eyes; increased body temperature above 103 F (39 C); production of only small amounts or no urine; rapid heart rate; agitation; restlessness; bright red tongue; very red or pale gums; breathing distress; vomiting; diarrhea; and dizziness.
According to the Canine Training Center dog blog, here’s what to do if your dog overheats:
1. Use lukewarm water (not hot or cold) to douse the dog.
2. While dousing the dog, set a fan to blow him.
3. Move the dog to shade or in air conditioning.
4. Do not make the dog drink water. Your dog may be too focused on breathing to drink. Allow him to drink when he is ready.
5. Continue all cool-down attempts until the panting stops. Stop cooling once the dog’s temperature gets to 103; cooling any further could lead to hypothermia.
6. Take your dog to the vet once he is cooled and at a temperature of 103.
Norma Vally is a seasoned veteran of home improvement; her career includes four seasons as host of Discovery Home Channel’s Emmy-nominated series “Toolbelt Diva.” A columnist and author, Vally splits her time in Southern Nevada, Los Angeles and New York City. Follow her on Facebook at Norma Vally “Toolbelt Diva” and visit her at www.NormaVally.com. Email Norma@NormaVally.com.