This blog first appeared on ColumbiaPatch.com on August 20, 2012.
The "Dog Days of Summer" are upon us. Don't let your canine be a Hot Dog!
(Campbell in the Driver's Seat/Maggie's Summer Cut)
by Skye Anderson, MS
We are responsible for our dogs’ safety and well-being so we need to ‘wisen up’ during the hot, sultry ‘dog days of summer’ to keep them healthy, happy and cool canines. (The ‘dog days of summer’ were mistakenly thought by ancient Greeks and Romans to be caused by the Dog Star Sirius, the brightest star.)
Put your dog in the driver’s seat (not literally, but see photo anyway) and keep his comfort and safety in mind this summer. Our dogs want to be with us and go where we go – even to the office! But many times this time of year, it is wiser to leave them home to nap in the cool house rather than to take them to watch the kids’ soccer game unless we can be sure there is sufficient water and shade to keep them cool.
Some breeds are better suited for hot climes (Chihuahuas and other short-haired dogs) while others are better suited for cold climates (Huskies, Malamutes, etc.).
Dogs and humans regulate body temperature differently: humans by sweating all over our body and dogs by panting (ever see a dog’s tongue hanging out on hot days?) and sweating through their paw pads – a wet nose also helps to cool the body via evaporation.
To Shave or Not To Shave – Your Dog!
Hair protects, insulates, and keeps body heat in and water out. Double-coated dogs have an undercoat of secondary hairs - short, dense, thin, sometimes wavy, and soft - plus an outer coat of coarser, thicker, generally straighter, and longer primary guard hairs. The term, fur, is usually applied to these dogs and fur is shed, sometimes twice a year.
Single-coated dogs (with ‘hair,’ rather than ‘fur’) have short, dense hair and a very fine undercoat; however, both fur and hair have the same composition and considerable disagreement exists as to whether the terms are interchangeable or not.
Groomers are sometimes asked to shave a golden retriever for the summer (see photo of Maggie). A responsible groomer will decline to do so.
“Shaving can cause a dog to get sun burned and shaving doesn’t really keep a dog cool,” according to Gayle Haak, groomer for 35 years at White Birch Kennels in Pennsylvania. “A golden’s coat acts as insulation to cool him in summer (and retain body heat during winter).”
Sometimes Haak will thin out a dog’s coat so it is not so thick. She also instructs owners how to properly comb a dog to get rid of a lot of the heavy undercoat.
And some groomers will shave the tummy area only – a reasonable compromise.
Sunburn and Heatstroke
A conditioner and canine sunblock can be a good idea if a dog spends a lot of time in the sun or water. It is also crucial to keep an eye on your best friend in the water because he can suffer from heat stroke even while swimming. Dogs have even been known to die from ingesting too much water when in the water.
Protect those Paw Pads during the Summer, too!
We humans wear shoes or at least flipflops so we may not be aware how hot the asphalt can get but our dogs know. Asphalt can actually burn the pads on their feet pretty badly and cause other damage. A human wouldn't think of walking barefoot on asphalt for long so why would you want your dog to? Just plain old common sense.
Even wood decking can become very hot (and now there are new, hotter fake-wood decks to be aware of).
Beware of Dogs in Parked Cars
And finally, be very cautious about leaving your dog in the car while you run into the store for ‘just a minute.’ It can take ‘just a minute’ for a car to become overheated, even in the shade if the temperature is over 72 degrees, even with the windows cracked. Call the Howard County Police Department if you see a dog in a parked car or at least notify the manager of the store. You can also call Animal Control at 410-313-2780.
According to ‘State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles’ at http://www.animallaw.info/articles/qvuspetsincars.htm, Maryland is one of 14 states with a law protecting dogs and cats in parked vehicles: humans are prohibited from leaving dogs or cats in a confined vehicle. Police and animal control officers are permitted to use force to remove the animal if necessary.
So, it is up to you to protect your dog’s health and safety in these ‘dog days of summer.’ Just do it: he’s worth it! After all, he is your best friend!